Supreme Court asks Centre, J and K to decide on state's minorities

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New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Central and the Jammu and Kashmir governments to sit together to decide the issue of identification of religious and linguistic minorities and whether Muslims could be treated as a minority in the state.

Describing it a "very important issue", the bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice D.Y.Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul gave both the governments four weeks time to decide the contentious issue after the Central government said that it has decided to discuss the issue with the state.

The court order came on a PIL by Ankur Sharma who has contended that Muslims constituted 68 per cent of the state's population and thus were not a "minority" in the state.

As the PIL was taken up for hearing, a counsel appearing for J&K questioned it saying that it was only focused on the state.

At this, Chief Justice Khehar said: "Let us focus on J&K and then if need be it wiil be extended to other States."

Jammu and Kashmir government, in their response to the PIL, has contended that it was not the only state where the minority declared by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) was a majority, citing the cases of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Punjab and Lakshadweep where minority as declared by the NCM was in majority. 

It further contended that the expression "minority" that has been used in the Constitution's Articles 29 and 30 has not been defined.

The public interest litigation had contended that the benefits offered under the Prime Minister's 15-point guidelines for the welfare of minorities should go to religious and linguistic minorities in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sharma has also sought the setting up of a State minority commission in the J&K.

He as sought directions that the National Commission for Minorities Act may be amended to make it applicable to the state so that its minorities too could get benefits made available to religious minorities in other states.

The petitioner said the religious and linguistic minorities in Jammu and Kashmir were deprived of their lawful share in the central schemes for minorities since it was being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily by people not entitled to it, and sought setting up of an expert committee under the direct supervision of the apex court to identity religious and linguistic minorities.

During the hearing of the PIL on July 12 last year, the court had refused to pass any interim order to block benefits of central schemes from being availed of by the Muslim majority in the northern state.