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Minority status for Muslims
Bench stays judge ruling
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, April 6
Within 24 hours a two-member Bench of the Allahabad High Court stayed the controversial order ending the minority status of Muslims in the state.

Clearly, wrong judgment was passed

— Kapil Sibal

The order came in a special appeal moved by the Mulayam Singh Yadav Government before a two-judge Bench comprising Justices Rafat Alam and Krishna Murari. After hearing arguments for two hours the Bench passed the order at 3.30 pm today.

The appeal challenged the validity of the single judge Bench of Justice S.N Srivastava ruling that, "Muslims are not entitled to be recognised as a religious minority." While staying the earlier verdict, the two-judge Bench termed it as violating judicial propriety. "Since another division Bench had stayed a similar case dealing with the same questions of law, it was against judicial propriety for a single-judge Bench to hear the matter at all," Justice Alam observed in the open court.

The matter would now be taken up on May 14 by when the election process would be over. The verdict came for heavy criticism from both the Congress and Samajwadi Party as their spokespersons pointed out the grave political implications of the verdict for the Assembly elections as it had come just two days before the first phase of polling.

Addressing a press conference Supreme Court advocate and central minister Kapil Sibal expressed concern over the timing and manner in which a “clearly wrong judgment was passed”.

He criticised the judgment on two counts. First, the judgment only had the operative part and did not provide reasons as had been made mandatory by the apex court.

Secondly, a single-judge High Court Bench went against an earlier Supreme Court judgment delivered in 2002 in the T.M Pai Foundation versus state of Karnataka case which according to Sibal had “clearly decided to take state as a unit to define religious and linguistic minority”.

Former Advocate General and now SP MP Virendra Bhatia also joined hands and described the judgment as being against “judicial propriety”. He said the state government immediately swung into action and got the stay within 24 hours so as to check the far-reaching consequences of the decision.

Muslims comprise 18.5 per cent of Uttar Pradesh's population of 166 million against the national figure of 13.1 per cent and are considered politically very crucial in determining who takes up the Chief Minister’s job in mid-May.

Significantly, the question that was raised before Justice Srivastava was merely regarding the inclusion of a minority institution in the government's list for the special grants given to such institutions.

The petitioner, a Ghazipur based Madrassa Noor-ul-Islam, had sought the court's intervention against what it described as discriminatory approach of the administration in excluding it from the list of beneficiaries.

However, the judge not only turned down the plea but also went to the extent of questioning the very minority status of Muslims in the state.

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