Centre seeks more time on plea seeking minority status for Hindus

Centre says granting minority status to Hindus in states where their numbers are less than other communities has ‘far-reaching ramifications’

SC
Two petitions challenging the Act are in the Supreme Court. The challenge is on the ground that it bars judicial review, which is a basic feature of the Constitution, imposes an “arbitrary irrational retrospective cut-off date”, and abridges the right to religion of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

The Centre has sought more time from the Supreme Court on the issue of providing minority status to Hindus in states where their number has gone down below other communities. The Centre on Monday pleaded that the issue has “far-reaching ramifications” and needed more discussions with “state governments and other stakeholders”.

“It is submitted that the question involved in this writ petition has far-reaching ramifications throughout the country and, therefore, any stand taken without detailed deliberations with the stakeholders may result in an unintended complication for the country,” the Ministry of Minority Affairs said in an affidavit filed in response to a plea by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, The Indian Express reported.

Court to NCM to Centre

Though Upadhyay’s present petition was filed in 2020, he had first approached the top court with the demand for minority status for Hindus in 2017, only to be sent to the National Commission For Minorities (NCM), which said only the Centre could grant the relief he was seeking.

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In its previous affidavit, filed on March 25, the Centre had sought to shift the onus on states, saying they, too, have the power to declare a group as a minority. It also sought dismissal of Upadhyay’s plea, saying “the reliefs sought by the petitioner are not in larger public or national interest,” the newspaper report said.

However, when this affidavit was taken up for hearing on March 28, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said he had not vetted it and sought time from a bench presided by Justice S K Kaul to submit a new one. Court granted four weeks to the Centre and two weeks to the petitioner to file any rejoinder to the Centre’s affidavit and fixed May 10 for the matter again. The Centre, however, did not file the reply within 28 days and submitted it only on Monday, a day before the scheduled date of hearing, The Indian Express said.

Plea based on 2011 Census

Upadhyay’s plea has relied on the 2011 Census according to which Hindus are a minority in Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, J&K, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab. He cited T M A Pai ruling, in which the court said that for the purposes of Article 30 – that deals with rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions – religious and linguistic minorities have to be considered state-wise.

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