Minorities Act inapplicable to J&K, state tells SC

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday told the Supreme Court that the Minorities Act 1992 is not applicable to the state and as such it did not have to set up a state-level minorities’ commission.
Appearing for the state government, its standing counsel Sunil Fernandes told a Bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur that the state nevertheless needed time to file its response in writing to a PIL for immediate identification of minorities in the sensitive border state to stop diversion of funds meant for them to the majority community.
The Bench, which included Justice AM Khanwilkar, granted time to the state and said the case would be taken up for next hearing after six weeks. On July 12, the apex court had issued notice to the Centre and the state government seeking their views on the PIL plea.
The petitioner, advocate Ankur Sharma, had pleaded that the state government was treating the Muslims, who accounted for 68.31 of the total population in the state in the 2011 Census, as a minority community which was “arbitrary, unreasonable and illegal.”
He said his representations to the authorities for setting up a state minorities’ commission to identify and notify the minorities in Jammu and Kashmir had fallen on deaf ears. He said he was forced to approach the SC as the state high court had refused to even list a PIL on the issue for preliminary hearing without citing any reason.
The Central Government had issued a notification under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 on October 23, 1993 identifying Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis (Zoroastrians) as national minorities. In 2014, Jains were added to the list.
“But the state of Jammu and Kashmir has till date neither notified any of the communities as minorities in the state of Jammu and Kashmir nor has legislated a State Minority Commission Act providing for a State Minority Commission which may safeguard the interests of religious and linguistic minorities in the state,” the PIL said.
The Centre offered 20,000 high value scholarships in 2007-08 in the field of technical professional education to national level minorities. In Jammu and Kashmir, the majority Muslims were allotted 717 of the 753 scholarships. Similarly, schemes such as the 15-point programme for the minorities were being misutilised for the benefit the majority community in the state, he pleaded.
Siphoning off minority rights “clandestinely and illegally” to the majority community was nothing but vote bank politics, the PIL said.
The petitioner contended that minority rights were fundamental rights under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution and as such could not be denied on account of the failure of the legislature to enact a law for the purpose.

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