Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of S.Manikumar, CJ, and Shaji P. Chaly, J., rejected the petition seeking direction to the State government to re-consider minority status of Muslims and Christians in the State. The Bench stated,
“Merely because there are a few people who are rich in the minority communities, one cannot be expected to understand that their richness is due to them belonging to minority communities and…it cannot be taken for granted that the entire members of the minority communities are economically and socially advanced.”
The instant petition was filed by the Citizen’s Association For Democracy, Equality, Tranquillity and Secularism (CADETS), an organization aiming to fight against discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, sex etc. and for maintaining equality among the citizens and peace and tranquillity in all fields of life and to uphold the principles of secularism. The grievance highlighted by the petitioner was in regard to the minority status continued to the Muslim and Christian communities in the State of Kerala, since according to the petitioner, the members of such communities have grown up to such a level in the fields of socio-economic and education, and therefore, their status was to be re-determined.
Whether Minority Status of Muslims and Christians in Kerala require Re-consideration?
The petitioner contended that the report of the Committee appointed by the State Government, namely Paloli Muhammed kutty Committee, was a falsely created one that suppressed the facts and figures so as to give undue advantage to the Muslim Communities.
The petitioner argued that neither the Constitution nor any other enactments have defined the term ‘minority’; even in the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 instead of defining minority, certain religious communities were included in the list of minorities by the Government.
The petitioner further pointed out the names of the Chief Ministers belonging to the minority communities to contend that the members of the Muslims and Christians in Kerala had enough representation in the Ministry and the assembly, hence, the petitioner contended that the minority communities were in an integral part of the decision-making process and were holding powerful, valuable, and substantial portfolios and were in the forefront of developmental activities.
Therefore, arguing that it was crystal clear that at no point of time, they were subjected to any sort of discrimination and there was no chance of any apprehension on their part that the majority communities will dominate them; the petitioner urged the Court to issue a writ of mandamus commanding the government to re-determine the minority status of Muslim and Christian Communities in Kerala and to re-assess the socioeconomic and educational progress of such communities.
Opinion and Analysis by the Court
Opining that the framers of the Constitution had considered in depth the issue with respect to the well being, protection, and welfare of the minority communities and that is the reason freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion was incorporated in Article 25 of the Constitution, the Bench stated,
“We have no hesitation to say that no citizen is expected to think, visualise or figure out a situation outside the aforesaid basic structure of the Constitution.”
Further, Articles 26, 29 and 30 speak in the same line which was also strengthened by Articles 14 and 15. Therefore, the Bench stated that even if the minority is not defined under the Constitution, that will not in any way belittle, digress or dilute the importance of the obligations instilled in “we the people of India”, by the framers of the Constitution.
Hence, rejecting the contention that the term ‘minority’ is not defined in the Constitution so as to give any constitutional status to such communities, the Bench stated that it had no factual basis and legal foundation for the reason that, the discussion of the constitutional provisions would make it clear that the framers of the Constitution were so careful and doubly cautious in providing various protection under the Constitution with the noble object of protecting and safeguarding the interest of the minorities. The Bench opined,
“Merely because the term ‘minority’ is not defined under the Constitution of India, that would not take away the fundamental rights and guarantees conferred on the minorities under the Constitution of India and the laws which are fundamental in the governance of the nation.”
Similarly, rejecting the argument that the socio-economic conditions of such communities, especially the fact of their sufficient representation in the State Legislative Assembly and in the management and affairs of the private and self-financing educational institutions, would suggest that the communities in question had grown up to such a level that they do not require any beneficial treatment; the Bench clarified that,
“Insofar as the political leadership and choice of Chief Minister and Ministers are concerned, it is done by the political parties or the political coalition succeeded in the fray of general elections conducted and that would not have any bearing in the matter of considering the status of minority in terms of the guarantee under the Constitution.”
And on the aspect of establishment of educational institutions by the members of the minority and any trust formed with members of the minority, the Bench stated that, “it is done on the basis of the right conferred as per Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution, which is a fundamental right recognised by the framers of the constitution, which cannot be diluted or watered down in any manner.”
Hence, holding that merely because there are a few people who are rich in the minority communities, one cannot be expected to understand that their richness is due to them belonging to minority communities and it cannot be taken for granted that the entire members of the minority communities are economically and socially advanced. The Bench stated,
“The National Commissions are well guided by the provisions of Act, 1992 and Act, 2004 and therefore, no manner of fetter can be created in whatever way for the independent functioning of the Commission by issuing any directions and that too, when the contentions put forth by the petitioner are substantially and materially surrounded by factual circumstances, which is not expected to be delved deep into by the writ court exercising powers under Article 226.”
Thus, cogitating the legal and factual aspects, the Bench held that the petitioner had not made out any case of arbitrariness, illegality, unfairness or other legal infirmities justifying the Court to exercise the power of discretion conferred under Article 226.[Citizen’s Association for Democracy, Equality, Tranquillity and Secularism v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 2931, decided on 29-07-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
Counsels for the Petitioner: C.Rajendran and K.Vijayan
Counsels for the Respondents: Krishnadas P.Nair, CGC and Tek Chand, Sr. Government Pleader