On Friday, October 29, the Supreme Court asked the Union government and others to provide a response to an appeal from the Kerala government against a Kerala High Court order. The Kerala HC had quashed government orders that provided scholarships to minorities in an 80:20 ratio for Muslims and Latin Catholic/Converted Christians.
Notices were issued to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Kerala State Commission for Minorities and others on the state government's appeal. The bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai said that the response had to be given within four weeks
The Supreme Court’s notice followed after a High Court order on May 28, which quashed the Kerala government orders sub-classifying the minorities by providing merit-cum-means scholarship to the Muslim community and Latin Catholic Christians/Converted Christians in an 80:20 ration, saying that it cannot be legally sustained.
A report in The Hindu said that the minority scholarship quota would be reduced, as the Kerala High Court had ordered that allocations for the merit-cum-means scholarship be made based on population. This means for Muslims the quota would be revised from 80% to 56.87% and it would become 40.6% for the Christian community.
The High Court had given the order based on a PIL filed by Justin Pallivathukkal, who said that the 80:20 ratio of scholarships violated minority Acts and Article 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution (to eradicate discimination and bring equality).
How did the 80:20 ratio come to be
Originally, the scholarships only extended to women from the Muslim community. In 2006, a report titled, ‘Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim community’ was released that called for more focus on inclusive development of the Indian Muslim community. In 2007, Kerala formed a committee under the then Minister Paloli Mohammed Kutty to implement the findings from the report, and a minority cell was formed.
Scholarships for degree and post-graduate courses, and reservation in jobs were implemented for Muslim women.
However, in 2011, this benefit was extended to the Christian communities by the Left-led Kerala government. It was in 2015 when Congress was in power in the state that an order was issued that “the reservation among Muslims and other minority communities is in the ratio 80:20 and 30% of seats will be reserved for girl students”.
Meanwhile, senior advocate CU Singh appeared for the Kerala government at the SC. The bench also issued notice on two connected petitions, filed by private organisations – Minority Indians Planning and Vigilance Commission Trust and MSM Kerala State Committee. The latter’s lawyer, Haris Beeran, told the bench that the government order had been in operation for the last 13 years and sought a stay on the High Court order.
The apex court, however, refused to stay the High Court order.
The High Court had also directed the government to pass appropriate orders providing merit-cum-means scholarship to members of the notified minority communities within the state equally and in accordance with the latest population census, available with the State Minority Commission.
(With inputs from PTI)