The Kerala High Court on Friday quashed state Government Orders, sub-classifying the minorities by providing merit-cum-means scholarship at 80 per cent to Muslim community and 20 per cent to Latin Catholic Christians and Converted Christians, saying it cannot be legally sustained. Quashing the state G.O.s in this regard,a Division bench, comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly directed the government to pass requisite and 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.
The Court gave the order on a Public Interest Litigation filed by one Justine Pallivathukkal, challenging a G.O. of May 8, 2015 that reservation among the Muslims and other minority communities will be in the ratio of 80:20 ie-- 80 per cent to Muslim Community and 20 per cent to Latin Christians and Converted Christians. The petitioner contended that the fixation of such a ratio was arbitrary, unjust and illegal and accordingly violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. In its order, the Court noted that the Christian Minority community had made representations to the government and State Minority Commission on the discrimination meted out to Latin Catholic Christians and Converted Christians on award of merit-cum-means scholarship, but no action was initiated.
It also noted that Section 13 of the State Commission for Minorities Act, 2014, encompasses a duty on the commission to look after the welfare of the minority communities within the State without any discrimination. It observed that the orders passed by the State Government show that clear discrimination is shown by favouring a particular minority community by providing scholarships in the ratio of 80:20.
The court said the mandates contained under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution have been clearly violated by the state government in the matter of the award ofscholarships.
"Therefore, deducing the facts, circumstances and the laws, we are of the considered opinion that the action of the State Government in sub-classifying the minorities by providing merit-cum-means scholarship at 80 per cent to Muslim community and 20 per cent to Latin Catholic Christians and Converted Christians cannot be legally sustained", the court said.
In its counter affidavit,the government had stated that a committee set up by it relied on statistics from the Justice Sachar Committee report and Kerala Padana (study) report for finalizing its report, which revealed Muslims are far behind Christians in college enrollment (and even behind Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) -- ie 8.1 per cent for Muslims.
It had said Muslims in Kerala are 'in toto' a backward community and included in the OBC category by the state government.