SC gives time to Centre till July 31 to settle minority issue in J&K

NEW DELHI, May 1:  Union Ministries have held a meeting with Jammu and Kashmir Government to find a solution to issues, including whether the 68 per cent Muslims in the State can be regarded as minority and can avail benefits under that category, the Centre today told the Supreme Court.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices D Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, granted time to the NDA Government till July 31 to find a solution.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said officials of Minority Affairs and Law Ministries have held a meeting with representatives of the State Government in pursuance of the March 27 order.
“We seek some further time for taking concrete decisions. It needs intervention slightly at higher level,” the ASG said.
Earlier, the Apex Court had asked the Centre and the State Government to “sit together” and find a solution to “contentious” issues including whether over 68 per cent Muslims in the State can be regarded as minority.
The court had asked them to file a proposal on the issue within four weeks.
Prior to this, 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 majority in J-K.
The plea had also alleged that the rights of religious and linguistic minorities in the State were being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily” due to the extension of benefits to “unqualified sections” of the population.
Sharma alleged that the provisions of the National Commission for Minorities Act was not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir due to a caveat put by Article 370 of the Constitution and moreover, crores of rupees were being given to members of the majority community under various schemes meant for linguistic and religious minorities.
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 claimed.
Last month, the Apex Court had imposed a cost of Rs 30,000 on the Centre for not filing its reply to the PIL alleging that minority benefits were being enjoyed by Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir.
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 had said, while seeking the setting up of State Minority Commission for identification of minorities.
The Apex Court had, however, refused to restrain the authorities from disbursing benefits to any community in the State.
“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 had said. (PTI)


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