Union Govt Revises Its Own Stand on Minority Status for Hindus

The Ministry of Minority Affairs has superseded its earlier affidavit and claimed that the Union government has the power to notify minorities, not states, but that wide consultations are needed.

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: The Union government has superseded its own affidavit to the Supreme Court in which it said that states had the ability to take a call on conferring minority status to any religious or linguistic community, including Hindus.

In a fresh affidavit filed through the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs on Monday, May 9, it has claimed that the Union government has the power to notify minorities, LiveLaw has reported.

However, it adds that a decision in this regard can only be taken by the Union government after “wide consultations with state governments and other stakeholders” to avoid “unintended complications in the future.”

The government had filed the earlier affidavit after the Supreme Court sought its response in a plea that sought directions for framing of guidelines identifying minorities at the state level. The plea contended that Hindus are in a ‘minority’ in six states and three Union Territories of India but were allegedly not able to avail themselves of the benefits of schemes meant for minorities.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs had said: “It is submitted that the State governments can also declare a religious or linguistic community as a minority community within the said state.”

“For instance, the Maharashtra government has notified ‘Jews’ as a minority community within the state. Moreover, the Karnataka government has notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani and Gujarati languages as minority languages within the state of Karnataka,” it said.

The plea was filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who had last year been arrested in connection with the raising of anti-Muslim threats in the forms of slogans during a demonstration at the Jantar Mantar.

LiveLaw has reported that Upadhyay sought minority status for Hinduism, Bahaism and Judaism in states like Mizoram, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur and Union Territories of Ladakh and Lakshadweep.

In the new affidavit, the Union government has said that it undertook a “detailed intraministerial discussion”, which prompted it to supersede its earlier affidavit.

A bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and M.M. Sundresh had earlier imposed a fine of Rs 7,500 on the Union government for not taking a stand on Upadhyay’s petition.

The apex court had earlier allowed a plea seeking transfer of cases from several high courts to it against the Union government’s notification to declare five communities – Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis – as minorities and tagged the matter with the main petition.