New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked whether Sikhs in Punjab and Muslims in Kashmir can be treated as minority, as it commenced hearing to decide the correctness of a 2007 Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict holding that Sikhs cannot be granted 50 per cent quota in Sikh educational institutions in Punjab.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, while issuing notice to the Centre, sought the assistance of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and appointed senior advocate T R Andhyarujina as amicus curiae in the matter.
"Can Muslims, who are in majority in Kashmir, still be treated as minority? Can Sikhs be minority in Punjab? Can Christians be minority in Meghalaya," the bench, also comprising Justices F M I Kalifulla, A K Sikri, S A Bobde and R Banumathi, asked.
The bench was informed by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) that the contesting parties were students who may not be interested any more in the outcome of the case having got admission elsewhere.
"This is a serious issue on which we need assistance of the Centre," the court said and issued notice to the Minority Affairs Ministry and asked the Attorney General to assist it.
The move by the apex court could have a bearing on other communities as well.
The question came up before the court in an appeal of the SGPC challenging the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which stripped Sikh educational institutions of their minority status, holding that Sikhs were not a minority community.
The High Court had set aside the state government notification, issued on April 13, 2001, that Sikh institutions can reserve 50 per cent seats for members from the community.