To recognise minorities at district level is contrary to law: Supreme Court

"There is a 11-judge Bench judgment which holds that it should be done at the State level," Justice Bhat addressed the petitioner side.

August 08, 2022 01:15 pm | Updated 02:56 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Supreme Court on August 8 orally observed that it is "contrary to law" to identify religious and linguistic minority communities district-wise. A Bench of Justices U. U. Lalit and S. Ravindra Bhat remarked that minority status of linguistic and religious communities have to be considered State wise.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by Devkinandan Thakur Ji, a Mathura resident, claiming that Hindus do not get minority status in States where they are “socially-, economically-, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior”. The petition had also sought a declaration from the Court to identify minorities district wise.

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"Your prayer to recognise minorities at the district level is contrary to law. There is a 11-judge Bench judgment which holds that it should be done at the State level," Justice Bhat addressed the petitioner side.

The judge was referring to the majority verdict given by the 11-judge Bench in the T. M. A Pai versus State of Karnataka case in 2002. The Bench said the Court cannot pass "general" directions to States to bestow certain communities with minority status. "If you bring a concrete case, we can look into it… This has to be done on a case-to-case basis," Justice Lalit told the petitioner side.

"You want to somehow bring out a case when there is none. We can look into concrete case of denial, the court cannot pass general orders" Justice Bhat said.

At this point, advocate Ashwini Upadhyay intervened to point out that a similar petition was pending before another Bench of the apex court. He urged the Bench to tag this petition along with the other one which has been pending since 2020. Mr. Upadhyay is himself the petitioner in the 2020 case.

The Court tagged Mr. Thakur's case with the earlier case and scheduled a hearing in the first week of September before the appropriate Bench.

In the previous hearing before Justice Lalit's Bench, Mr. Thakur had complained that followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who were the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur could not establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, thus jeopardising their basic rights guaranteed under Articles 29 and 30.

But the Court had indicated that a religious or linguistic community which were a minority in a particular State could inherently claim protection and the right to administer and run their own education institutions under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution.

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The Court had asked whether a specific notification, declaring such non-dominant communities as a ‘minority’ in the particular State, was required to be issued at all.

The Court had made it clear that it would not entertain petitions devised in “thin air”. It had challenged the petitioner to bring a “concrete case” in which Hindus were denied rights in States where they were a minority.

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