The Kerala High Court on Friday quashed three government orders pertaining to minority scholarships that fixed the ratio of scholarship distribution at 80:20 between Muslims and Christians.
The Court directed the government to disburse the merit-cum-means scholarships equally among notified minority communities as per the latest population census. This has raked up controversies for the newly re-elected CPI(M)-led LDF government as the Muslim organizations demand that the entire quota be reserved for them.
Christians constitute 18.38 per cent of Kerala’s population while Muslims constitute 26.56 per cent of the state population thereby making the ratio unfair.
While the verdict has been welcomed by the churches, it has left the Muslim organizations rattled. These organizations have urged the government to appeal against the court order.
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) — the largest political party representing Muslims in Kerala has demanded the abolition of the ratio and said that the entire scholarship quota should go only to Muslims.
Demanding a separate scheme for Christians, IUML national secretary E T Muhammed Basheer said, “The government failed to present the facts before the court. The scholarships started as a sequel to the Sachar Committee report at the national level. A scheme meant for Muslims was amended by the LDF regime of 2006-11 to give a portion to Latin Catholics and converted Christians. The government should bring out separate schemes for other minorities.”
Muslim scholars’ body Samastha Kerala Jamiat-ul-Ulema, which is pro-IUML, also supported quashing of the ratio and demanded full right over the scholarships.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has kept the Minority Welfare portfolio with himself.
Churches welcome the move
On the other hand, wanting the government to execute the court’s order, Jacobite Bishop and Church Trustee Joseph Mor Gregorious said, “Christians are denied their due share in minority coaching centres. We hope the government will not deny justice to us. We expect that our (Christians) issues would be addressed by the Chief Minister who has taken over the department.”
Adding to the existing woes of the government, the court’s order has come at a time when various Muslim organizations are irked with the Chief Minister for keeping the minority welfare portfolio with himself. Incidentally, the department since its formation has been led by Muslim ministers only and the majority of the appointments too have gone to Muslims.
2015 Kerala government order
A 2015 Kerala government order had allocated 80:20 distribution of the merit-cum-means scholarship for minority communities to Muslims and Latin Catholic Christians and Converted Christians respectively.
A public interest litigation was moved by Justine Pallivathukkal of Palakkad, a member of the minority Roman Catholic community, contending that “the State government showed marked discrimination while implementing the scheme by favouring one minority against the others without any rationale.”
The petitioner also argued that the order was against the spirit of the scholarship scheme as, “the social, economic, and educational empowerment schemes and programs of the Central government were meant for the socio-economically poor and downtrodden sections of society, including the six Centrally notified minorities, which included Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains.”
Observing that the government’s decision was not in accordance with the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 and the State Commission for Minorities Act, 2014, a Division Bench of the court consisting of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly struck down the Kerala government’s order.