Guj HC junks state govt plea, backs minority scholarship

In a split verdict, a five-judge bench of the Gujarat High Court on Friday upheld the constitutional validity of the Centre's pre-matriculation scholarship for students of minority communities and directed the Gujarat government to implement the scheme in the state.

The state government has resisted implementing the 2008 scheme on the grounds that it is "discriminatory".

While Justices V M Sahai, Akil Kureshi, D H Vaghela agreed the scheme should be implemented by the state, Justices J B Pardiwala and R R Tripathi dissented.

The majority opinion in the bench held that the scholarship is an "essential diversion of funds for social upliftment" and an "affirmative action" which could not be equated with reservation.

The dissenting judges, however, held that the scheme violated article 15 (1) of the Constitution, which says "The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them."

The bench also referred the state government's appeal for a stay order, made immediately after the scheme's constitutional validity was upheld, to a division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala.

Friday's court order means the Gujarat government will have to contribute one-fourth of the costs to provide scholarship money to schoolchildren belonging to minority communities (Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis).

The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs, which implemented the scheme in 2008 as part of the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for welfare of minorities, bears three-fourths of its expenditure.

The money, which can amount to more than Rs 10,000 per year per student, is given to students on the condition that they get at least 50% marks in the previous final examinations and their parents' annual income does not exceed Rs 1 lakh.

Today's HC order came on a petition filed by Adam Chaki, a Congress leader from Kutch who had sought the court's direction to the state to implement the scheme.

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