Can’t direct J&K to set up Minority Commission: SC

NEW DELHI, Mar 12:
The Supreme Court today took note of the Centre’s response that the Jammu and Kashmir Government has indicated that it would consider setting up of a State Minority Commission and disposed of a PIL alleging that the benefits accruing to minorities there were being taken away by majority Muslim community.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submissions of Attorney General K K Venugopal that the State Government will consider and examine the need and feasibility of setting up of the State Minority Commission.
Venugopal read out the re-drawn minutes forwarded by the Office Memorandum (OM) of February 23, issued by the Central Government after the meeting held on January 12 between it and other stake holder States including the Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Government of Jammu and Kashmir has, in principle, given indication that (it) will consider and examine the need and feasibility of setting up of a State Minority Commission at the relevant point of time as and when need arises based upon the critical study of the social and educational backwardness of the minorities spread across various regions of the State,” the memorandum said.
The Attorney General said that to cater to the special needs of minorities, a special project – Chief Minister Inclusive Development Initiative – has been formulated by the State Government.
“The said project will have focussed development effort for certain special segments of the society and will include upgrading of civic infrastructure such as health, education and water,” he said referring to the OM.
The bench took note of the memorandum and disposed of the PIL filed by Jammu-based lawyer Ankur Sharma who has sought various reliefs including that the Central law, governing minority panels, be made applicable in the Jammu and Kashmir as well.
“For the present, the steps taken by the respondents (Centre and State) would suffice,” it said, adding that it cannot direct the State to make a law applicable.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi and lawyer Shoeb Alam, appearing for Jammu and Kashmir, said the memorandum had made the stand of the State Government clear.
Earlier, the Centre had informed the court that it was still deliberating on a host of issues including whether Muslims, who are majority in Jammu and Kashmir, can be treated as minority to get benefits which are only available to minorities.
The top court had earlier issued notice to the Centre, the State Government and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on the plea of Sharma alleging that the benefits accruing to the minorities were being taken away by the 68 per cent-strong Muslim community in the State.
The plea had alleged that the 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.
The State Government was violating Article 29 (protection of interests of minorities) and Article 30 (right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions) under the Constitution, he had alleged.
The PIL has also sought setting up of a State Minority Commission for identification of minorities and extension of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992 to Jammu and Kashmir.
“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, are 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,” it had claimed. (PTI)