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Minority status in J&K: SC imposes cost on Centre for not filing reply

NEW DELHI, Feb 6:

The Supreme Court today imposed a cost of Rs 30,000 on the Centre for not filing its reply to a PIL alleging that minority benefits are being enjoyed by majority Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir.
A bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana allowed the counsel for the Centre to file the response after depositing the cost within two weeks and noted that a fine of Rs 15,000 was also imposed last time for the same reason.
The bench said that as the matter is very important and it was according last opportunity to the Centre to file the reply.
Earlier, the court had issued notice to the Centre, the State Government and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on the plea filed by Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma, alleging that benefits accruing to minorities were being taken away by Muslims, who were in a majority in Jammu and Kashmir.
At the outset, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said though the counter affidavit was ready with the counsel, it has to be vetted and and cleared by the authorities at the “highest level”.
The bench took strong note of the fact that the Centre, which was earlier asked to deposit to Rs 15,000 cost for non-filing of the reply, submitted the fine but did not file the response.
“We are raising it (cost) to Rs 30,000 and granting the last opportunity as the matter is very serious. Let the counter affidavit be filed within two weeks,” the bench said and ordered that the PIL be listed for hearing after four weeks.
Jammu-based lawyer Ankur Sharma, in his plea, has alleged that benefits accruing to minorities were being taken away by Muslims who were in a majority in Jammu and Kashmir.
The plea also alleged that rights of religious and linguistic ‘minorities’ in the State were being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily” due to extension of benefits to “unqualified sections” of the population.
It has been settled that the identification of minority communities has to be decided as per the population data of the State in question, Sharma said.
The Apex Court, which had earlier issued notices to Ministry of Minority Affairs of Jammu & Kashmir government, National Minority Commission and others, however, had refused to restrain authorities from disbursing benefits to any community in the State.
The PIL has also sought the setting up of State Minority Commission for identification of minorities.
“The population of Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir according to the 2011 Census is 68.31 per cent. Communities which are eligible to be notified as minorities, were not awarded their due share of scholarship owing to their non-identification as minorities, thereby jeopardising their Constitutionally guaranteed rights enshrined under Part III of the Constitution of India.
“This clearly reflects the unfairness and discrimination of the State towards the communities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir which are eligible to be notified as minorities,” the petition alleged.
The plea also sought directions to consider extension of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992 to Jammu and Kashmir and make amendments so that benefits available to minorities of other States could also be given to the minorities of J&K.
“Appoint a committee of experts functioning under the direct supervision of this court to submit a comprehensive report identifying communities of the State of Jammu and Kashmir which qualify as religious and linguistic minorities,” the PIL said.
“Constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a High Court Judge (retired) working under direct supervision of this Court for investigating the illegal and arbitrary disbursement of minority benefits under the Prime Minister’s 15 point Programme to the communities,” it added. (PTI)

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