Ever tried to find out state of minorities? HC poser to govt

Full-bench was hearing PILs over central scholarships for minority community students.

The Gujarat High Court Tuesday asked the state government whether it had taken steps in the past 20 years to ascertain social and educational backwardness of Muslims and other minorities in the state.

The question was raised by the five-judge full bench during the hearing on PILs over the central government's scheme for pre-metric scholarship to students belonging to minority communities.

The central government scheme launched in 2008 is for students belonging to five religious minorities, including Muslims, whose parents have annual income below Rs 1 lakh where the Centre gives 75 per cent of the scholarship amount while states are to bear the cost of the remaining 25 per cent.

The Gujarat government has refused to implement the scheme.

During the hearing, when the advocate general was arguing against the central scheme, Justice V M Sahai pointedly asked, "Have you formed any committee to find out the social and educational backwardness of Muslims living in the state? What has the state done in the past 20 years?" To which Advocate General Kamal Trivedi conceded there was no study conducted by the state government.

Earlier, during the submissions in support of the state government's refusal to implement the scheme, Trivedi said it was discriminatory in nature.

Citing constitutional provisions and Supreme Court judgments, Trivedi argued that the Central government did not come up with notification defining the five religious groups as socially and economically backward that could be the beneficiaries of the scheme.

He also contended that the state could extend benefit only to those groups or communities identified as socially and educationally backward by a permanent commission set up for that purpose.

The Bench commented that an executive order for the purpose of the advancement of the weaker sections should be upheld keeping in mind the philosophy of affirmative action of the state.

In a PIL seeking direction to the Gujarat government to implement the pre-metric scholarship scheme in the state, a division bench had held on October 8, 2012, that the government could not give monetary benefits to any community on the basis of religion as constitution prohibited discrimination on ground of religion.However, the bench had refused to act on its order since a contradictory view was taken by another division bench of the Gujarat HC earlier.

Later, Chief Justice of the high court had ordered the constitution of five-judge bench. Further hearing would continue on Wednesday.

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