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Gujarat HC snub to Modi govt

Ahmedabad, Feb. 15: Gujarat High Court today rejected the Modi regime’s contention that the UPA’s pre-matric scholarship scheme for minorities was “discriminatory” and directed that it be implemented.

Three members of a five-judge bench upheld the scheme as constitutional and said it could not be equated with any kind of “reservation”. The other two termed it “discriminatory” and “unconstitutional”.

The scheme was launched in 2008 for students of Classes IX and X under the 15-point programme for welfare of minorities. It will benefit students who belong to five religious minority communities and whose parents have an annual income below Rs 1 lakh.

The three judges --- Justices V.M. Sahai, D.H. Vaghela and Akil Kureshi --- held that the scheme was “affirmative” and “not discriminatory” in nature and could not be equated with any kind of “reservation”.

They observed that it did not violate Article 15 (1) of the Constitution that says a state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

The case was referred to the five-judge bench after a two-judge bench from Gujarat High Court had ruled it unconstitutional.

The court today turned down advocate-general Kamal Trivedi’s request to stay the judgment on the ground that this was a referral bench and the final order for implementation should come from the two-judge bench that referred the matter to it.

Under the scheme the Centre contributes 75 per cent of the scholarship amount and states are required to contribute the remaining 25 per cent.

A Gujarat Congress leader, Adam Chaki, had filed a PIL seeking implementation of the scheme in the BJP-ruled state.

The Modi regime had refused to implement the scheme claiming it violates Article 15. It also contended that Gujarat’s minorities are educationally more advanced than those in other states.

Hence, a religion-based scheme for a few communities would create “heartburn” and a feeling of discrimination among other low-income students, it contended.