SC asks Centre to respond on PIL demanding state-wise minority determination
The petition in the Supreme Court said the classification of religious minorities by the Centre at pan-India level has not only created a wave of inequality across different states but also encouraged those who did not belong to that minority religion, to convert themselves for social, political and economic benefits
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday gave the Centre a month to respond to a petition for classifying religious minorities based on their population in each state and transferred to itself similar petitions pending before three high courts.
In August 2020, the court issued notice to the Centre on the petition filed by Delhi BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay but no response was forthcoming from the Centre. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared for the Centre on Friday and requested for a week’s time to file response.
“Can you do it in one week as you have not been able to do it so far,” remarked a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh. It, however, extended the time and said, “As a last opportunity, four weeks’ time is granted to file response.”
Upadhyay in his petition challenged the validity of Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) Act 2004, that gave unbridled powers to the Centre to restrict minority benefits to five religious communities namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees.
The petition asked that the Centre be told to lay down guidelines for the identification of minority communities at the state-level “to ensure that only those religious and linguistic groups which are socially, economically, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior, can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
The petition has made three union ministries - Home, Law and Justice, and Minority Affairs – as parties to the petition. The court agreed to take up the matter after seven weeks.
In addition, the court took up a transfer petition filed by Upadhyay seeking transfer of petitions pending on this issue from the high courts of Delhi, Gauhati and Meghalaya. Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, who appeared for Upadhyay, informed the court that the petitioners in the three pending petitions have not objected to the transfer. The petition pending before the Delhi high court was filed by Upadhyay.
“Since the same issues are pending in the high courts, notices have been served. There is no opposition. Transfer petitions are accordingly allowed.”
According to Upadhyay’s petition, Hindus are merely 1% in Ladakh, 2.75% in Mizoram, 2.77% in Lakshadweep, 4% in Jammu and Kashmir, 8.74% in Nagaland, 11.52% in Meghalaya, 29% in Arunachal Pradesh, 38.49% in Punjab, and 41.29% in Manipur.
He argued that benefits available to the minorities to establish and run institutions are misused by communities which are in the majority.
“The classification of religious minorities by the Centre at pan-India level has not only created a wave of inequality across different states but also encouraged those who did not belong to that minority religion, to convert themselves for social, political and economic benefits,” the petition said.