The Supreme Court on Tuesday put the union government in a precarious situation by asking it to clarify whether it was in favour of giving “minority” status to Hindus in the sensitive Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, besides Lakshadweep which is being administered by the Union government.
The court was dealing with two separate PILs filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and social activist Devikanandan Thakur, seeking the declaration of Hindus as minorities in those states where they are numerically outnumbered by other communities.
Besides Hinduism, the petitioners have sought minority status for Judaism and Bahaism in those states and Union Territories where they are in minority.
A three-judge bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice A. S. Oka and Justice J. B. Pardiwala gave a last opportunity to Arunachal Pradesh, J&K, Lakshadweep, Telangana, Jharkhand and Rajasthan to file their response on the issue.
If they don’t respond, the court will assume that they have no comments to offer and the court thereafter would proceed without hearing them any further.
Any stance on grant or otherwise of “minority” tag to Hindus in the sensitive and volatile J&K region is likely to be a tricky proposition for the BJP led union government.
The state has been under the central government’s administration since August 5 last year following the abrogation of Article 370 which earlier granted special immunity and status to the then undivided state.
Abrogation of Article 370 continues to be a sensitive issue in the erstwhile state and the constitutional validity of its abrogation is under challenge by way of a batch of petitions before a five-judge Constitution bench in the Supreme Court.
Senior counsel C. S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Upadhyay, told the bench on Tuesday that Jammu and Kashmir had also not filed its response, although it was being administered by the Union government.
“In Jammu & Kashmir, Hindus are minorities. We understand why they (Union) have not responded,” Vaidynathan remarked.
This prompted Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul to comment: “Frankly, Mr Attorney, J&K is administered by you (Union government) at the moment. So is Lakshadweep. Is it that your administration is not responding? How much time do you need?”
The AG then quickly sought adjournment of the hearing till March when he can place the necessary response in this regard.
Venkataramani told the bench that despite earlier opportunities, Arunachal Pradesh, J&K, Lakshadweep, Telangana, Jharkhand and Rajasthan have not filed their responses.
The court later posted the matter for further hearing on March 21.