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State is engaging in an unconstitutional act by giving scholarships to the Muslim minority community at a rate of 80%, which is not authorised by any legislation: Kerala High Court

State is engaging in an unconstitutional act by giving scholarships to the Muslim minority community at a rate of 80%, which is not authorised by any legislation is upheld by the Kerala High Court in the case of Justine Pallivathukkal v. State of Kerala (WP(C) No. 24355 of 2020) through a Division Bench comprising of S.Manikumar, CJ., and Shaji P. Chaly, J.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The Union Government has introduced scholarship programmes for students from minority populations as part of the Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programs for the Welfare of Minorities. According to the established plan, scholarships were to be awarded based on merit and financial need. The petitioner, a member of the Roman Catholic community, one of the minority communities, argued before the court that there was blatant discrimination favouring one minority against the other while implementing various projects in the State of Kerala. As a result, the State government was backing a particular sector under the guise of minority rights.

The petitioner’s main argument was that the State Government issued Exhibit P4 order bearing the date 08-05-2015, which stated that reservation among Muslims and other minority communities will be in the ratio of 80:20, or 80% to the Muslim Community and 20% to Latin Christians and Converted Christians, in contravention of the said scheme. Additionally, it was claimed that girls will be given priority for 30% of the seats. As a result, the petitioner claimed that the ratio determination was arbitrary, unreasonable, and unlawful, infringing on Articles 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution.

JUDGMENT

The Court stated that it was evident from the 2011 census that Kerala has a total of 45.27% minority populations, of which 58.67% were Muslims, 40.6% were Christians, and the remaining 0.73% were other minority communities. The Court said that it is perfectly acceptable for the State Government to provide facilities to the less fortunate members of the community, but when it comes to dealing with the notified minorities, it must treat them equally and is not given any authority to do otherwise, as is clear from the Constitution’s provisions and the laws mentioned above.

Relying on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Chinnaiah v. State of A.P., (2005), in which the Court addressed the issue of sub-classification among the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and held that except for a limited power of making an exclusion or inclusion in the list by an act of Parliament, there is no provision either to sub-divide, subclassify or sub-group the castes.

The Court held the State is engaging in an unconstitutional act by giving scholarships to the Muslim minority community at a rate of 80%, which is not authorised by any legislation. The Minority Commissions Acts of 1992 and 2014 and the requirements outlined in the aforementioned articles of the Indian Constitution cannot be overstepped by simple executive directives issued by the State Government.

In light of the foregoing, the Bench determined that the State Government’s decision to subclassify minorities by awarding merit-based scholarships to the Muslim community at a rate of 80% and to the Latin Catholic and Converted Christian communities at a rate of 20% could not be justified under the law. The contested orders were therefore revoked, and the State Government was instructed to issue the necessary and appropriate orders to grant merit-based scholarships to the notified minority communities in accordance with the most recent population count available to the State Minority Commission.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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