Why states don’t respond?’: SC on plea to declare minorities at state/district level

The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed its discontent over six state governments and Union Territories (UTs), including Jammu and Kashmir, for not submitting their response to the central government on the issue of identification of minorities at the state or district level.

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked the Centre why UTs administered by it have not yet given their comments to it on the issue of identification of minorities.

The bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Oka and J.B. Pardiwala said: “We fail to appreciate why these states should not respond.”

Attorney General R. Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, cited the recent status report filed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs saying that 24 states and six UTs have so far furnished their comments on the issue.

The bench said it is giving last opportunity to the Centre to obtain their responses failing which it will presume that they have nothing to say.

The status report, filed in the top court, said comments from Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan, and Telangana are still awaited.

Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who is one of the petitioners in the case, said it is an important matter.

Citing no response from states and UTs, the bench told the AG that “We will presume that they do not want to give responses.” The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on March 21.

During the hearing, a counsel, citing the status report, submitted that most of the states have agreed that the state should be the unit, not the Centre for identification of minorities.

Of the 24 states and Union territories (UTs) which gave their opinions to the Centre, Delhi openly backed granting minority status to Hindus in any form at the state or UT level. “The Central government may declare the ‘migrated minority status to the followers of Hinduism who are the religious minority in their origin state (i.e. Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh etc) and residing in Delhi after migration from their home state,” said Delhi. Uttar Pradesh said that it will have no objection to any decision taken by the Central government in the matter.

Goa did not take any stand in the matter and Maharashtra felt in the interest of uniformity, the Centre can notify the minority communities. Haryana said the power to notify any community as a minority community is with the Centre. Madhya Pradesh gave approval for continuation of the present system for identification of minorities.

Gujarat said it is “comfortable with the present procedure of identifying minority communities”. Himachal Pradesh said although the Constitution does not define a minority or provide details relating to the geographical and numerical specification of the concept, it is felt that the constitutional scheme envisages this to be determined at national level.

West Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Uttarakhand favoured identification of a “minority community” at the state level but didn’t name any particular faith or group.

20230117-183402

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