SC gives Centre more time on plea for minority status for Hindus in some states
After a brief hearing in the matter, the top court scheduled the matter for further hearing on May 10, and gave four weeks' time to Centre to place its stand before it
The Supreme Court on Monday gave more time to Centre to bring on record its stand on a plea against its power to notify minorities under the National Minorities Commission Act, 1992, and also seeking minority status for Hindus in states, where their numbers are less than others.
"I have received the reply... what stand the department has taken, I could not go through it," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, urging the court to grant some more time in the matter.
The bench, also comprising Justice M.M. Sundresh, on a lighter note, said the reply from the Ministry of Minority Affairs has been carried by the newspapers on Monday.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs, in an affidavit, said: "It is submitted that the state governments can also declare a religious or linguistic community as a minority community within the said state. For instance, the government of Maharashtra has notified Jews as a minority community within the state of Maharashtra."
The ministry said that certain states, where Hindus or other communities are less in number, can declare them a minority community within its territory, to enable them set up and administer their own institutions.
The bench, in its order, said that the Solicitor General submits that he will place the stand on the matter on record as he has yet not vetted the affidavit, even though it may have appeared in the newspapers. To this, a smiling Mehta replied: "I have not read it... I am not aware of the view of the department."
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, representing the petitioner BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, said: "This Act will have to go. And, they will have to come up with something like RERA, where every state will have to have these committees."
Singh added that the T.M.A. Pai judgement as well as the Bal Patil judgement says it can be done only by the state and can't be done by the Centre at all. "And, this Act gives the power to the Centre to notify minorities," he said.
The bench also pointed out to an office report drawn up by its registry that the Home Ministry, a party in the petition, had put the onus of response on the Ministry of Minority Affairs. "There is also some office report that some department has written, this does not per se (pertain) to our department, Home Ministry has written... what is all this," it told Mehta, who replied that he will look into the issue.
The bench told Mehta that if the government wanted to implead a particular ministry, that could have been done. Mehta said: "Absolutely, we could have requested it. I'm not aware, nor is my friend Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj."
After a brief hearing in the matter, the top court scheduled the matter for further hearing on May 10, and gave four weeks' time to Centre to place its stand before it.
Upadhyay, in his petition, sought a direction to the Centre to lay down guidelines for identification of minority at the state level saying the Hindus are in minority in 10 states and they are not able to avail the benefits of schemes meant for minorities.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs said the allegations made by Upadhyay in the PIL that "followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who are minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, can't establish and administer their institutions of choice is not correct".
The ministry emphasised, "It is submitted that matters such as declaring that followers of Judaism... Hinduism, who are minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice in the said state and laying down guidelines for identification of minority at state level may be considered by the concerned state government."