Petition In SC Argues That Special Schemes For Minorities Violate Right To Equality: How The Centre Has Responded So Far
The petitioners said they are denied equal treatment, despite being similarly situated as the members of religious minorities, just because of the fact that they belong to the majority community
The Union government has defended the special treatment of religious minorities in India in the Supreme Court against a petition holding the same as violative of the right to equality.
The petition filed jointly by six members of the Hindu community through advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain contended that the petitioners are denied of equal treatment, despite being similarly situated as the members of religious minorities, just because of the fact that they belong to the majority community.
The petitioners said that unequal treatment to equals on the basis of religion violated their fundamental right to equality (Article 14), right against discrimination on grounds of religion (Article 15) and the right against paying taxes for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination (Article 27).
“The petitioners and other members of [the] Hindu community are suffering because they have been born in [the] 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,” stated the petition.
The petition has objected to the allocation of Rs 4,800 crore in the Centre’s 2019-2020 budget for the implementation of such schemes.
The petitioners also made made specific submissions against the welfare schemes for Waqf properties.
They argued that no similar benefits are given to the institutions of Hindu community such as trusts, mutts and akhadas, and therefore, contending that by giving such “undue advantage”, the Centre is treating the Muslim community above law.
The petition also questioned the validity of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. It argued that there was already a backward classes commission and various schemes to take care of the socially and educationally backward, hence, a commission meant only for certain religious communities was unnecessary.
Union Government's Response
The Union government, on Tuesday, defended in the court the schemes meant for minorities, stating that they do not violate rights of the Hindus and are not against the principle of equality.
The government claimed that the schemes are “legally valid” and aim at “inclusive growth” for the minority communities at various levels.
The affidavit filed by the Union ministry of minority affairs said that the special schemes 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, and do not violate the rights of members of other communities. These schemes are legally valid as they are only enabling provisions so as to achieve inclusiveness and do not suffer from any infirmity,” said the affidavit.
“In addition, the scholarship scheme, coaching schemes, etc. have academic merit, as well as earmarking for girl students,” it added.
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