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Centre gets SC's 4-week notice to respond on classification of religious minorities

Centre gets SCs 4-week notice to respond on classification of religious minorities

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India allowed the Union government a month to respond to a petition to classify state-wise religious minorities based on their population. On Friday, the top court also transferred pending petitions before three High Courts regarding the same issue to itself, Hindustan Times reported.

The court had issued notice to the government in August 2020, after the Delhi BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay filed a petition, but there has been no response so far. On Friday, when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the government, asked for a week's time, the court asked how the government could file the response in one week if it couldn't do the same in more than a year. The bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh, however, gave the four weeks.

In his petition, Upadhyay had challenged the rationality of Section 2 (f) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) Act 2004. It gives Union government extreme power to restrict minority benefits to the five religious communities including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees.

Upadhyay requested the government to formulate guidelines to identify minorities at the state level. The petition says that only socially, economically, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior religious and linguistic groups can run educational institutions of their choice.

The petition named ministries of Home, Law & Justice and Minority Affairs as parties to it and asked the court to take up petitions regarding the same, pending in the High Courts of Delhi (also filed by Upadhyay), Gauhati and Meghalaya. Upadhyay also informed the court that petitioners of those three have not objected to the transfer.

Upadhyay claimed in his petition that Hindus are only 1% in Ladakh, 2.75% in Mizoram, 2.77% in Lakshadweep, 4% in Jammu and Kashmir, 8.74% in Nagaland, 11.52% in Meghalaya, 29% in Arunachal Pradesh, 38.49% in Punjab, and 41.29% in Manipur.

He alleged that despite being the majority, many communities are misusing benefits available for minorities to establish and run institutions. The union government's classification of religious minorities at the pan-India level has created more inequality in various states and encouraged many who do not belong to those communities to convert themselves to get those benefits, Upadhyay claimed in his petition.

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