Press Trust of india

Identification of minorities: Centre seeks more time from SC to hold meetings with states

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New Delhi:  The Centre sought more time from the Supreme Court on Monday to hold meetings with states and Union Territories on the issue of identification of religious minorities, including Hindus, at the state level.

In a status report submitted to the court in response to a plea filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the Ministry of Minority Affairs said comments/views of the state governments including those of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and UT of J & K have not been received as on date.

“A reminder was sent to these states requesting them to furnish their comments/views. Further, comments of states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are also awaited. In these states, the issue may have wider ramifications. The Ministry proposes to hold meetings in the ensuing weeks with the remaining State Governments/Union territories in order to have their views on the matter also.

“That in view of the position stated above, it is humbly submitted that this Hon’ble Court may kindly consider to defer the hearing and allow more time for holding meetings with other State Governments/Union Territories, and also to enable the State Governments/Union Territories and stakeholders with whom the consultative meetings have already been held, to finalise their considered views in the matter,” the ministry said.

The apex court is scheduled to hear the PIL, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, on Tuesday.

The top court had earlier expressed displeasure over the Centre taking different stands on the issue of identification of minorities, including Hindus, at the state level and directed it to hold consultations with states on the issue within three months.

In supersession of its earlier stand, the Centre had told the apex court that the power to notify minorities is vested with the Union government and any decision in this regard will be taken after discussion with states and other stakeholders.

The Centre had in March said it was for the states and Union Territories (UTs) to take a call on whether or not to grant minority status to Hindus and other communities where they are less in number.

The apex court had earlier granted time to the Centre to respond to a plea seeking directions for framing guidelines for  identification of minorities at the state level, contending that Hindus are in minority in 10 states.

Upadhyay had challenged the validity of section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act, 2004, alleging that it gives unbridled power to the Centre and termed it “manifestly arbitrary, irrational, and offending”. Section 2(f) of the Act empowers the Centre to identify and notify minority communities in India.

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