Identification of Minorities at State Level: SC Gives Rajasthan, Telangana, J&K 6 Weeks as “Last Opportunity” to Respond

The Supreme Court Monday gave the states of Rajasthan and Telangana and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir six weeks to submit their responses on the issue of identification of minorities at the state level, after the Centre pleaded for giving them a “last opportunity”.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, told a bench of Justices S K Kaul and A Amanullah that responses were still awaited from Rajasthan and Telanagana. Part reply from Jammu and Kashmir was also awaited, he said.

He urged the bench to give them the last opportunity to furnish their responses.

The bench, while giving them six weeks to respond, said copy of its order be sent to the two states and the Union Territory informing them that the apex court will close the opportunity for accepting their responses if they fail to do so within the deadline.

The top court posted the matter for further hearing in July.

The apex court was hearing the pleas, including the one filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar 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.

While hearing the matter on January 17, the apex court had expressed displeasure over six states and Union Territories (UTs), including Rajasthan and Telengana, not submitting their comments to the Centre on the issue of identification of minorities at the state level.

“We fail to appreciate why these states/Union Territories do not respond and thus give last opportunity to the central government to obtain the responses from them, failing which we will presume that they have nothing to say,” it had said.

On January 17, Attorney General R Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre, had referred to the 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 in January, had said that comments from six states and UTs — Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan and Telangana — were still awaited.

On November 22 last year, the Centre had told the top court that it has held consultative meetings with all state governments, UTs and other stake holders on the issue of identification of minorities at the state level and 14 states had furnished their views so far.

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.

“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.

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