Do government schemes for religious minorities violate the Constitution? On Monday, a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice R F Nariman issued notice to Centre on a plea which raised the question.
The plea by six residents of Uttar Pradesh, who termed themselves as “followers of Sanatan Vedic Dharam” and “belong to the Hindu community”, said, “The State cannot make distinction between majority and minority community. The State cannot make any rule, law or regulation distinguishing religious minorities as a separate class. The State cannot make any law in the name of minorities beyond the scope of Article 30 of the Constitution…”
The petition, filed through advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, pointed out that “none of the notified minority community have been declared as socially, educationally backward class or economically depressed class of the citizens” and “therefore, there is no constitutional sanction for initiating and implementing the impugned schemes”.
The petition said that “the action of the Government initiating different programmes including awarding scholarship and other financial benefits to the members of so-called religious minorities is against the Principles of Secularism and also in violation of the provisions contained in Article 14,15 and 27 of the Constitution of India”.
“Right to Equality, Equal Protection of Law, Rule of Law and a Secular State are basic pillars of Indian Constitution. The solemn declaration in the Preamble of the Constitution reflected in Part III of the Constitution particularly in Article 14,15 and 27 are being flagrantly breached by the Central Government by initiating beneficial schemes ‘only’ on the basis of religion classifying a group of religions as ‘minorities’, thereby discriminating and prejudicing the interest of similarly situated persons of Hindu community which is a serious jolt on the Constitution of India and principles of Secularism and therefore, such legislation and executive orders in exercise of the powers under Article 32 of the Constitution of India are liable to be quashed,” it said. The plea also questioned the constitutional validity of the establishment of the National Minority Commission by a Central Act, saying “Parliament cannot make any law for the benefit of any religion…(and) that special benefit and advantage within the sweep of Article 15(4) can be provided only to those communities who are found ‘socially and educationally backward’ classes of citizens by a Commission established under Article 340 …”
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