New Delhi: The central government has sought more time from the Supreme Court to hold consultations with the state governments on petitions seeking to identify minorities, including Hindus, at the state level.
In a status report, the Ministry of Minority Affairs said that the 14 state governments, namely Punjab, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, West Bengal, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and three union territories (UTs) namely Ladakh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, and Chandigarh have furnished their comments/views.
It added that since the comments/views of the remaining 19 state governments/UTS in the matter have not been received as on date, a reminder was sent to these states requesting them to furnish their views at the earliest so that the considered comments/views can be placed before the apex court.
“That in view of the position stated above, it is humbly submitted that since the matter is sensitive in nature and will have far-reaching ramifications, this court may kindly consider allowing more time to enable the state governments/union territories and stakeholders with whom the consultative meetings have already been held, to finalise their considered views in the matter,” said the report, which was filed in response to a PIL filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
The ministry said the Centre has held consultative meetings with all the state governments/UTs and also with the other stakeholders viz Ministry of Home Affairs, D/o Legal Affairs Ministry of Law & Justice, D/o Higher Education- Ministry of Education, National Commission for Minorities (NCM), and National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI).
“Some of the state governments/union territories have requested for additional time to have wider consultations with all the stakeholders before they form their considered opinion on the matter,” it added.
The ministry said the state governments were requested that in view of the urgency of the matter, they should expeditiously undertake the exercise with stakeholders to ensure that views of the state government are finalised and conveyed to the Ministry of Minority Affairs at the earliest.
The central government, in August too, had sought more time from the apex court to hold wider consultation with states and UTs regarding identification of religious minorities, including Hindus, at the state level.
In May, the top court said that the Centre is uncertain and has not taken a clear stand on a plea seeking a direction to it to lay down guidelines for identification of minorities at the state level, including Hindus.
The top court said that if the Centre wants to hold consultation with the state governments in connection with granting minority status to Hindus, where they are outnumbered by other communities then it should do so.
In a previous affidavit, the ministry had said: “State governments can also declare a religious or linguistic community as a minority community within the said state. For instance, the government of Maharashtra has notified Jews as a minority community within the state of Maharashtra.”