New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed displeasure over six states and Union Territories (UTs), including Jammu and Kashmir, not yet giving their comments to the Centre on the issue of identification of minorities at the state level.
“We fail to appreciate why these states should not respond. We give last opportunity to the Central government to obtain their responses failing which we will presume that they have nothing to say,” said a bench comprising Justices S K Kaul, A S Oka and J B Pardiwala.
Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, referred to the recent status report filed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs which said that 24 states and six UTs have so far furnished their comments on the issue.
The status report, filed in the apex court last week, said that comments from six states and UTs — Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan and Telangana — are still awaited.
When Venkataramani told the bench that six states and UTs have not yet given their comments on the issue, the bench said, “They cannot keep on not giving their responses. We will presume that they do not want to give responses”.
The counsel appearing for one of the petitioners said that in Jammu and Kashmir, Hindus are in minority.
The bench observed that UTs are being administered by the Centre.
Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who is one of the petitioners in the case, said it is an important matter.
The bench posted the matter for hearing on March 21.
On November 22 last year, the Centre had told the top court that it has held consultative meetings with all the state governments, UTs and other stake holders on the issue of identification of minorities at the state level and 14 states have furnished their views so far.
In its recent status report, the ministry has said that “last reminder” was sent on December 21 last year to these six states and UTs which have so far not given their comments.
It said in one the petitions, “the petitioner has prayed to put restrain on the Government of India from placing reliance/acting upon and implementing the Sachar Committee report, submitted on November 17, 2006, for running/initiating any scheme/s in favour of Muslim community or for any other purpose”.
The status report said that a petition with the same subject matter is pending adjudication before the apex court.
The ministry has said that apart from state governments and UTs, it held consultative meetings with other stakeholders including the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Education, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI).
“All the ministries/departments have sent their views/comments,” said the status report which also annexed the copy of replies received from these ministries or departments.
“The 24 state governments namely Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Odisha, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Goa, West Bengal, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and six Union Territories namely Ladakh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Chandigarh, NCT of Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar islands and Puducherry have furnished their comments/views,” the ministry said.
The status report was filed on the pleas, including the one filed by Upadhyay who has sought directions for framing guidelines for identification of minorities at the state level, contending that Hindus are in minority in 10 states.
The apex court was hearing the pleas, including the one filed by Upadhyay which has sought directions for framing guidelines for identification of minorities at the state level, contending that Hindus are in minority in 10 states.
During the earlier hearing, Upadhyay had told the bench that he has challenged the validity of section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act, 2004.
Terming section 2(f) of the Act, which empowers the Centre to identify and notify minority communities in India, as “manifestly arbitrary, irrational, and offending”, his plea has alleged that it gives unbridled power to the Centre.
Upadhyay had earlier referred to a 2007 judgement of the Allahabad High Court on a plea seeking quashing of the May 2004 order passed by the state of Uttar Pradesh recognising 67 madrassas for grant-in-aid.
He had said the high court verdict of 2007 has not been challenged.
“Can minority status be decided district-wise? How can that be done,” the bench had earlier observed during the hearing.
On May 10 last year, the apex court had expressed displeasure over the Centre’s shifting stand on the issue of identification of minorities, including Hindus, at the state level and directed it to hold consultations with the states within three months.
In supersession of its earlier stand, the Centre had told the apex court that power to notify minorities is vested with the Union government and any decision with regard to the issue will be taken after discussion with states and other stake holders.