The Jammu and Kashmir government today opposed in the Supreme Court the contention of the Centre that the state was "disowning" the minutes of joint meeting on setting up of the minority commission. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered and allowed the request of the state government to defer the hearing by four weeks on the plea that raised issues like whether majority Muslims can avail benefits, meant for minorities in the state. At the outset of the brief hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal said that the state government has "disowned" the minutes of the joint committee meeting between it and the Centre on setting up of the State Minority Commission. Advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir government, vehemently opposed the Centre's submission that the state has disowned the outcome of the joint meeting. Referring to the state's affidavit, the lawyer said, "The state government will consider and examine the need and feasibility of setting up state minority commission at the relevant point of time as and when need arises based upon the critical study of the social and educational backwardness of the minorities spread across various regions of the state." To cater to the special needs of minorities, who are residing in the state, a special project -- Chief Minister Inclusive Development Initiative- is being formulated by the state government, Alam said. "The said project will have focussed development effort for certain special segments of the society and will include upgrading of civic infrastructure such as health, education and water," the state government said in its affidavit. The Centre had informed the court that it was still deliberating on a host of issues including whether Muslims, who are majority in Jammu and Kashmir, can be treated as minority to get benefits which are only available to minorities in the state. The top court had earlier issued notice to the Centre, the state government and the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on the plea filed by Jammu-based lawyer Ankur Sharma who alleged that benefits accruing to the minorities were being taken away by the 68 per cent-strong Muslim community in Jammu and Kashmir. The plea has alleged that the rights of religious and linguistic 'minorities' in the state were being "siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily" due to extension of benefits to "unqualified sections" of the population. Sharma had alleged the provisions of the National Commission for Minorities Act were not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir due to a caveat put by Article 370 of Constitution. "Moreover, crores of rupees are being given to the members of the majority community under various schemes meant for linguistic and religious minorities," he had said. The state government was violating Article 29 (protection of interests of minorities) and Article 30 (right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions) under the Constitution, he has alleged. The PIL has also sought setting up of a state minority commission for identification of minorities and extension of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992 to Jammu and Kashmir. "The population of Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir according to the 2011 Census is 68.31 per cent.
Communities which are eligible to be notified as minorities, are not awarded their due share of scholarship owing to their non-identification as minorities, thereby jeopardising their constitutionally guaranteed rights enshrined under Part III of the Constitution of India," it has said. "This clearly reflected the unfairness and discrimination of the state government towards other communities in Jammu and Kashmir which were eligible to be notified as minorities," the petition has alleged. The petition has also demanded that a special investigation team (SIT), headed by a retired high court judge working under direct supervision of the top court, be constituted for investigating the illegal and arbitrary disbursement of minority benefits.
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