In response to a petition saying welfare schemes cannot be based on religion, the Centre in an affidavit told the Supreme Court that welfare schemes for religious minority communities aimed at reducing inequalities and not in violation of the rights of Hindus or other communities are legally valid. The petition was filed by Neeraj Shankar Saxena and six others who claimed that they were unconstitutionally deprived of benefits and their fundamental rights violated as they did not receive the benefits received by similarly placed members of religious minorities.
"It is submitted that the schemes being implemented by the Ministry are to reduce the inequalities among the minority communities and to improve the level of education, participation in employment, skill and entrepreneurship development, reducing deficiencies in civic amenities or infrastructure.
"The schemes are not in contradiction to the principles of equality as enshrined in the Constitution. These schemes are legally valid as they are only enabling provisions so as to achieve inclusiveness and do not suffer from any infirmity. The support given to disadvantaged/ underprivileged children/ candidates of minorities communities through these schemes cannot, therefore, be faulted with," the affidavit said. The Centre also clarified that these schemes are not for everyone belonging to a minority community but only specifically economically weaker sections/underprivileged, children/candidates/women of the minority communities. Scholarship schemes and coaching schemes have academic merit and earmarking for girl students, it added.
The petitioners further alleged that the Centre is placing the Muslim community above the law and constitution by offering "undue advantage." They also sought the scrapping of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, claiming there is already a Backward Classes Commission to find out the conditions of the backward classes that need aid.
"The petitioners and other members of Hindu community are suffering because they have been born in majority community. The State cannot promote or give any benefit to any religious community whether minority or majority keeping in view the secular ethos embedded in the Constitution of India," the petition said.