Kriti Agrawal –
The Kerala High Court overturned three state government directives, thus nullifying the 80:20 split in minority scholarship allocation between Muslims and Latin Christians/converted Christians.
The Court ruled that such behavior is unconstitutional.
The division bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly directed the state government to issue orders providing merit-based scholarships to members of the notified minority communities in accordance with the most recent population census available with the State Minority Commission.
According to the petitioner, the majority of the Centre’s socioeconomic and educational empowerment programs are aimed at the disadvantaged, especially the six Centrally Notified Minorities. However, in Kerala, there is obvious prejudice favoring one group against other minority populations without any rationale.
The problem has recently resulted in a significant schism between the state’s Muslim and Christian sectors. When the Pinarayi Vijayan government took office for a second term last week, the Chief Minister retained the minority welfare ministry for himself, breaking with the convention of a Muslim member being the minister.
Protests have been lodged by a number of Muslim religious and political organizations in response to the proposal.
The High Court’s decision to overturn the 80:20 scholarship ratio is putting the government in a bind. It will be interesting to watch if the government files an appeal against the ruling.
The Court said, “But here is a case where, without taking into account the entitlement of the Christian minority community within the state available from the population ratio, the State is indulging in providing scholarship to Muslim minority community at 80%, which, according to us, is an unconstitutional act and unsupported by any law.”
The Court ruled that, those mere executive instructions made by the state government cannot override provisions of the Minority Commissions Acts of 1992 and 2014, as well as constitutional imperatives.
According to the Court, Article 29 of the Constitution also imposes a duty to preserve the educational interests of the minority population in an equal and nondiscriminatory way.