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State Government Is Not Vested With Powers To Treat Minorities Unequally: Kerala High Court

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The petitioner claimed to be a public-spirited person is an advocate, had filed a suit in the common interest of the society relating to the minorities in the state of Kerala. He belonged to the Roman Catholic Christian community who challenged the unequal treatment of the minorities by the state government.  The impugned order dated 8th May of 2015; the state The government announced the reservation sub-classification for the minorities i.e., in 80:20 ratio. The Muslims were provided 80% and 20% for the Christians. So, the petitioner brought up the instant case seeking quashing of the impugned order. 

Arguments by the Petitioner

The petitioner’s side was represented by senior advocate Sri. Raju Joseph, assisted by advocate Julian Xavier. The counsels for the petitioner highlighted the discrimination between the announced minorities, whereas the socio, economic and educational empowerment schemes were focused on centrally notified minorities and do not discriminate among them or do not mention any specific scheme/reservation for a particular minority. 

The state government does not have any rationale in implementing the impugned order according to the counsel for the petitioner. The counsels pleaded to quash the impugned order by claiming that the aforesaid order violates article 14,15,29 and 30 of the Indian constitution and also the National Commission for Minorities Act,1992 and Kerala State Commission for minorities act,2014. With all the arguments put forth, the counsels for the petitioner claimed that the order was unconstitutional. 

Arguments by the Respondent

The respondents were represented by the Assistant Solicitor General of India P. Vijaykumar and O.A. Nuriya who argued for the state government and union of India, in support of the impugned order dated 8th May of 2015. The counsels placed the statistics given by the Justice Sachar committee and the Kerala Padana report, which led the Paloli committee and state government to pass such an order. The state government relied upon the report filed by the ‘Prime Minister’s High-Level Committee chaired by the former justice Shri Rajendra Sachar which said that the development of the backward community is directly dependent on the development of the educational standard. 

The counsel for the state government also signified the importance of this move by the state government, which was based on the rough statistics of the minority population in the state. According to respondents, the state government is free to implement any schemes or announce educational support schemes as per the need of the hour and this implementation/order is not arbitrary or unconstitutional i.e., does not violate article 14 and 15. Hence, the counsel for the respondent’s claim of valid order was recorded by the court. 

Court’s Observation

The division bench observed that article 14 and 15 have placed an obligation on the state to look after the welfare of the social, economic and educational well-being of the weaker section of the society. Any scheme implemented for the same is legitimate action and right. But in the instant case, the state government had to treat the notified minorities equally and are not vested with any power to treat the minorities unequally. The court referred to the earlier decided case of Chinnaiah v. State of Andhra Pradesh and State of Punjab and Ors v. Devendra Singh and Ors. Referring to the aforesaid judgments, the court opined that, the state government was not justified in this passing of the order. 

Court’s Judgment

The Division Bench headed by the Honourable Chief Justice of Kerala High Court allowed the writ petition for quashing of the impugned order dated 8th May of 2015. The Court held that 80% reservation to Muslims and 20% to the Latin and converted Christians cannot be legally accepted. 

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