The Supreme Court on Monday urged the the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government to “sit together” and examine whether Hindus and other non-Muslim communities constitute a minority community in Jammu and Kashmir and hence are entitled to reservation benefits.
The bench of Chief Justice of India J S Khehar took on record that representatives from the Central government and the state government “have agreed to sit together to consider difficulties of minorities in Jammu and Kashmir and submit a proposal in four weeks”.
A PIL was filed by Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma, alleging that benefits accruing to minorities were being taken away by Muslims, who were the majority in Jammu and Kashmir. It claimed the rights of religious and linguistic “minorities” in the state were being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily” because of extension of the benefits to “unqualified sections” of the population.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the Union Law Ministry was examining issues relating to the minority status to a community that is otherwise a majority and about constitution of minority commissions in the state.
“We do appreciate that it is a very very important issue. The manner in which minority status has been granted has to be kept in mind. If some protection is to be given to a community, who is in a better position than you to accord such protection,” the bench told the law officer.
Appearing for the state government, senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium said he had advised the Jammu and Kashmir government to demonstrate utmost “inclusiveness” and grant equal protection to all communities. “It is not a must to have a state minority commission if you want to protect a community. A state is responsible for protecting its minorities. If you are in the nature of an inclusive society, you don’t need commissions or orders. I have urged the state government to take up this issue on a priority basis and collaborate with the Central government,” Subramanium said.
The bench appreciated submissions advanced by Mehta and Subramanium and gave the two governments four weeks to formulate and submit a proposal before the court.