Kerala govt seeks time to study HC order striking down 80:20 scholarship

High Court

The Kerala government on Saturday said the High Court order asking scholarships be distributed equally among minority communities will be examined further before a decision is taken on its implementation.

Earlier, the merit-cum-means scholarships for students belong to minority communities were distributed in an 80:20 ratio.

The State government has assigned the Law Department to study the HC order before it is taken up for discussion after the current Assembly session ends.

The development comes following unrest in certain political camps, especially the Muslim League.

According to veteran CPM leader Paloli Mohammed Kutty, the 80:20 ratio rule was implemented by the United Democratic Front  (UDF) in line with the League.

A high court division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly on Friday quashed three government orders, including the awarding of 80 per cent of scholarships to Muslims, and 20 per cent to Latin Catholics and converted Christians, saying this was legally unsustainable.

The court pointed out that awarding 80 per cent of scholarships to members of a certain community and denying others, based on the State’s population ratio, was unconstitutional.

The court also said government orders could not bypass the rules of the Minority Commission.

The High Court passed the order based on a petition by Justine Pallivathukkal of Palakkad, who argued that differentiating minorities as Muslims and Christians defied secularism. He requested equal consideration for all minority communities.

According to the 2011 census, minorities form 45.27 per cent of Kerala’s total population. Among the minorities, 58.67 per cent are Muslims, 40.6 per cent Christians and others constitute 0.73 per cent.

The Constitution envisages the right to education without discrimination, the court said. 

Though several groups had complained to the government and State Minorities Commission about discrimination in distributing scholarships, no action was initiated, the court noted.

The High Court had directed the government to issue merit scholarships for minority community students on an equal basis, considering the latest census report held by the State Minorities Commission.

Court nullifies three government orders

The court has quashed three government orders, issued between 2008 and 2015. The first order, issued on August 16, 2008, said a minority cell was set up in the State Secretariat based on the recommendations of Paloli Mohammed Kutty committee.

The Paloli committee was formed in connection with the implementation of Sachar Commission report in Kerala.

The 2008 order included the provision for granting 5,000 annual merit-based scholarships of Rs 3,000, Rs 4,000 and Rs 5,000 each to women students from the Muslim community pursuing professional courses.

The scheme was to be implemented by the Department of Collegiate Education, and a clerical post was to be created under the deputy collector in all 14 districts. The order also said Rs 10 crore would be set aside for minority welfare projects.

The second related order issued on February 22, 2011, extended the scholarship and hostel stipend to Latin Catholics and converted Christians, following the same yardstick applicable for women Muslim students.

The order specified that the scholarship would be granted to only 20 per cent of members of Latin Catholics and converted Christians together.

The May 8, 2015, order was about scholarships to minority community students pursuing Chartered Accountancy, Cost Accountancy (ICWA) and company secretaries’ course.

Under the order, students graduating with 60 per cent marks and hailing from families with an annual income of less than Rs 6 lakh, were eligible for the scholarship. The order also directed to give priority to students from below the poverty line (BPL) families.

The order said Rs 1.80 crore would be distributed as scholarships to students. It also called for reserving 80 per cent of scholarships to Muslim students, and the remaining 20 per cent to members of other minority communities. The order also mandated that 30 per cent of the beneficiaries should be women students.

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