Monday, December 11, 2023

Supreme Court adjourns petitions challenging nationwise identification of minorities to March 21

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned the batch of petitions challenging nationwise identification of minorities to March 21.

The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice J.B. Pardiwala gave the Union government one last opportunity to direct the six States or Union Territories, which were yet to file a response on the Centre’s letter seeking comments on the issue of ‘identification and notification of religious and linguistic minorities,’ to do the same before the next date of hearing.

The Bench further observed that if the remaining States/UTs failed to respond before the next hearing, then the Apex Court would presume that they have nothing to say on the matter.

Appearing for petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, Senior Advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan submitted that the Union of India had filed a status report, which agreed that the States should be the unit for identification of minorities and not the Union. 

The Senior Counsel further said that if this was the case, then the 1991 notification (which notified six communities as minorities at national level) had to go.

Attorney General R. Venkataramani sought more time from the Bench to get response from the remaining States/UTs.

The Bench expressed its resentment over repeated postponements and said that it should be presumed that the six States/UTs have nothing to say on the matter.

The AG then pointed out that these were major states.

Taking note of the AG’s submission, the Supreme Court told the Central government to take response of these States/UTs.

Vaidyanathan contended that the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which had Hindus as minorities, was yet to file a response. It was understandable why they did not respond, he added.

Petitioner-in-person Upadhyay sought early hearing in the case, stating that this was an ‘important’ matter and that there was complete vacuum in this aspect.

The Apex Court, while stating that all matters were important, fixed March 21 as the next date for hearing.

Last week, the Central government had filed an affidavit in the Apex Court, stating that 24 States and six Union Territories (UTs) have expressed their views on the petition.

Advocate Amrish Kumar filed the affidavit on behalf of the Union government. 

He submitted that 16 administrations have placed their confidence in the Union of India identifying minorities on the basis of national population, while eight have favoured the state governments notifying minorities on the basis of their population in the respective states. Besides, six administrations have taken varied stands, he added.

The petition had challenged Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act of 2004, which stated that a minority for the purpose of the Act was a community notified by the Central government.

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