The Supreme Court today adjourned the batch of petitions seeking a determination of the Minority Status of religious communities at the state level and also challenging the constitutional validity of the National Minority Commission Act, 1992 and the National Minority Commission Education Institution Act, 2004 to July 2023.

The Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah directed that its order stating that it will close the opportunity for the State and UTs to respond, if they do not respond by the next posting, be forwarded to the States and UTs that have not responded.

ASG K.M. Nataraj told the Court that responses have been received from all States and UTs except Rajasthan and Telangana and J&K, which has given a partial response. He also told the Court that the state of Arunachal Pradesh has already responded to the Centre.

While seeking an adjournment, the ASG submitted that he was conscious that by the previous order, a last opportunity had already been granted for the States to respond.

Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, the Petitioner, appeared in person.

In the previous hearing, the Attorney General had told the Court that six States/Union Territories including Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Lakshadweep, Rajasthan and Telangana are yet to respond to the Centre with their views on the subject.

"We fail to appreciate why these States/Union Territories do not respond and thus give last opportunity to the Central government to obtain the responses from them, failing which we will presume that they have nothing to say", the Bench of Justice SK Kaul, Justice Abhay Oka and Justice JB Pardiwala ordered.

The Union Government had filed a status report in the matter containing views of 24 State governments and 6 Union Territories on the subject. It further added that comments from six State governments and Union Territories are still awaited.

Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party have taken a stand that the present method of notification of minorities at the Central level is correct and acceptable to them.

Seven States have stated that the minority status of religious communities should be determined by treating the State as a unit. They are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Maharashtra, Manipur, Mizoram, Punjab, Sikkim, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

In an earlier order of May 10, 2022, the Court recorded that the Union backed out from the earlier stance that the Parliament and the State Legislature have concurrent powers to say that the power is vested with the central government to notify minorities. On January 7, 2022 the Supreme Court transferred to itself the petitions from various High Courts challenging the constitutional validity of the National Minority Commission Act.

The plea challenges the validity of Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act, 2004 and it terms that provision which empowers the Centre to identify and notify minority communities in India, as "manifestly arbitrary, irrational, and offending" which gives unbridled power to the Centre.

During an earlier hearing, the Court had asked the Petitioner whether he has a concrete case that Hindus are being denied minority status in states like Mizoram or Kashmir. The Bench of Justice U. U. Lalit, Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia had said that it will consider the PIL if that is the case.

Cause Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay V. Union of India and Ors.