'Taking different stands doesn't help', SC to Centre on plea seeking minority status to Hindus in some states
The SC told the Centre that if it wants to hold consultation with the state govts to grant minority status to Hindus, where they are outnumbered by other communities, then it should do so
The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that the Centre is uncertain and has not taken a clear stand on a plea seeking a direction to it to lay down guidelines for the identification of minorities at the state level, saying the Hindus are in minority in 10 states.
The top court told the Centre that if it wants to hold consultation with the state governments in connection with granting minority status to Hindus, where they are outnumbered by other communities, then it should do so.
A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the Union of India has not decided what it wants to do, and there is uncertainty. "Solution cannot be complex...if you want to consult, then consult (state governments)", Justice Kaul told the counsel representing the Centre.
Senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, representing the petitioner, pointed out that the Centre has filed an affidavit in supersession of its earlier affidavit, saying it wants to hold wider consultation with states and other stakeholders. The Centre's counsel requested the bench to pass over the matter, as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was busy with some other matter.
Justice Kaul said, "There are matters, which require resolution...taking different stands does not help.." The bench agreed to take up the matter later. "Let the Solicitor General come...", noted the bench.
In a recent affidavit, the Ministry of Minority Affairs told the Supreme Court that though the power is vested with the Centre to notify minorities, but emphasized on having a wider consultation with the states and other stakeholder in the view of contentions raised in the petition.
The ministry said that wider consultation will ensure that the Central government is able to place a considered view before the top court taking into consideration several sociological and other aspects obviating any unintended complications in future with regard to such a vital issue. It also emphasized that the questions involved in the petitions have far-reaching ramifications throughout the country, therefore any stand taken without detailed deliberations with the stakeholders may result in an unintended complication for the country.
However, in a previous affidavit, the ministry had said: "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 ministry's response came on a plea filed by the BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking a direction to the Centre to lay down guidelines for identification of minority at the state level saying that the Hindus are in minority in 10 states and they are not able to avail the benefits of schemes meant for minorities.