10 May 2022 8:11 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed disappointment at the Central Government changing its stances in a plea seeking minority status for Hindus in states where they are numerically less.While the first affidavit filed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 28 stated that it is for the concerned States to take a call on the matter, the latest affidavit filed yesterday, in supersession...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed disappointment at the Central Government changing its stances in a plea seeking minority status for Hindus in states where they are numerically less.
While the first affidavit filed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 28 stated that it is for the concerned States to take a call on the matter, the latest affidavit filed yesterday, in supersession of the first affidavit, stated that the Centre has the power to notify minorities but wider consultations are needed to finalize its position on the issue.
When the matter was taken, Justice Kaul pointed out that there should have been more thought before filing the affidavit.
"All this thought should have been made before filing the affidavit....this creates uncertainty...all this comes to public domain before we set our eyes...if you want to consult, do, who's stopping you..", Justice Kaul told the Union's counsel, who was seeking a pass over for the Solicitor General to appear.
"Let the solicitor come and let me put to him....let me try to impress upon him that taking different stands does not help, consultation should have taken place before affidavit was filed", Justice Kaul said.
Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for the petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay, submitted that the matter requires final hearing. "This has to be finally heard...they say they want to consult the states...Parliament has made the law, and it is for your lordships to interpret it", senior counsel submitted.
When the Solicitor General appeared after the matter was passed over, Justice Kaul expressed concern that the Union Government should be more careful while filing affidavits, so that they do not have to back out from the stand taken on a later date. He also reckoned that in the interregnum the consultation process could have been undertaken.
"How can in a matter like this the affidavit first be filed that both Centre and State have power. Number of dates were given. Somebody should have been careful. More so, because before the affidavits are filed everything is in the public domain. That has its own consequences. I am not blaming anybody", Justice Kaul said.
"Once we serve the copy on the parties, it finds way in the public domain", SG Tushar Mehta replied.
The bench adjourned the hearing directing the Centre to undertake the consultation process and file a status report in August.
In the order, the bench recorded that it does not appreciate the Centre changing its stand.
"...Another Counter affidavit has now been filed, by Respondent No. 3 which seems to back out of what was stated earlier, something we don't appreciate", the bench noted.
"We may only say that the Stand has already been taken in the first affidavit. But as in Para 7 of the fresh affidavit it is stated that power is vested with Central Govt, to notify minority, something which the petitioner had contended, issues raised will be finalised after having wide consultation with State Govts. and other stakeholders. Aforesaid being the position, necessary exercise be undertaken as proposed."
"List on 30th August. Status report to be filed at least 3 days before the hearing", the order further stated.
The Central Government had filed an affidavit on 28.03.2022. Therein it was stated that the States in which Hindus are in minority can notify them as minorities for the purposes of Articles 29 & 30 of the Constitution of India. However, in a fresh affidavit filed on 09.05.2022, the Union Government has taken a different stand. Pursuant to an intra-ministerial discussion , the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs in its recent affidavit stated -
"I respectfully submit that though the power is vested with the Central Government to notify minorities, the stand to be formulated by the Central Government with regard to issues raised in this group of petitions will be finalised after having a wide consultation with State Governments and other stakeholders. This will ensure that the Central Government is able to place a considered view before this Hon'ble Court taking into consideration several sociological and other aspects obviating any unintended complications in future with regard to such a vital issue".
The counter-affidavit is filed in the PIL filed by Ashwini Upadhyay seeking 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. The PIL also questioned the competence of the Parliament to enact the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 and National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act 2004 and the power of the Central Government to notify minorities.
Case Title : Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay versus Union of India WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 836 OF 2020
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