Consultative meetings on identification of minorities held, 14 states furnished views: Centre tells SC
New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it has held consultative meetings with all state governments, Union territories and other stake holders on the issue of identification of minorities at the state level and 14 states have furnished their views so far.
It said comments of remaining 19 states and Union territories have not been received and since the matter is “sensitive in nature” and will have “far-reaching ramifications”, some more time should be given to enable them to finalise their views.
A bench of justices S K Kaul and A S Oka granted six-week time to the Centre to place on record the stand in the matter.
The top court perused the status report filed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs which said some of the states and Union territories have requested for additional time to have wider consultations with all the stake holders before they form their considered opinion on the issue.
The status report said that 14 states and three Union territories have furnished their comments.
The apex court was hearing the pleas, including the one filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, which sought directions for framing guidelines for identification of minorities at the state level, contending that Hindus are in minority in 10 states.
During the hearing, Upadhyay 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.
Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, said a status report has been filed by the ministry on October 31.
“You have said 14 states have given comments,” the bench said.
It observed that there is a need to delve into these issues and it cannot be decided suddenly.
Upadhyay referred to a 2007 judgement of the Allahabad High Court on a plea seeking quashing of May 2004 order passed by the state of Uttar Pradesh recognising 67 Madarsa for grant-in-aid.
He 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 asked.
It called upon the 19 states and Union territories, which have not yet given their comments on the issue, to communicate their stand to the Centre within four weeks of receipt of the top court’s order.
The bench has posted the matter for hearing in January.
In the status report filed in the apex court, the Ministry of Minority Affairs said that the Centre has held consultative meetings with all state governments, Union territories and also with other stakeholders including the ministries of Home, Law and Justice, Education, the National Commission for Minorities and the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions.
“The state governments/UTs were requested that in view of the urgency of the matter, they should expeditiously undertake the exercise with stakeholders in this regard so as to ensure that the views of the state government are finalised and conveyed to the Ministry of Minority Affairs at the earliest,” it said.
The status report said 14 states — Punjab, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, West Bengal, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu — and three Union Territories namely Ladakh, Dadar and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and Chandigarh have furnished their comments.
“Since the comments/views of the remaining 19 state governments/UTs in the matter have not been received as on date, a reminder was sent to these states requesting them to furnish their comments/views at the earliest so that the considered comments/views can be placed before this court,” it said.
On May 10, 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.
The Centre had in March said it was for the states and Union territories to take a call on whether or not to grant minority status to Hindus and other communities where they are less in number.