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Feb 15, 2013 at 04:50pm IST

Minority community students can get scholarships: Gujarat HC

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday turned down the state government's contention that students belonging to the minority community cannot be given scholarships at the pre-matric level. The state government had challenged a scheme of the Centre saying that scholarships cannot be given on the basis of religion.

But the Gujarat High Court pointed out that it was a Central scheme and had been implemented all over the country. So the Gujarat government should also avail its benefits and give scholarship to students from the minority community, the court observed.

The Narendra Modi government's contention was that Centre's pre-matriculation scholarship scheme for students of minority community was discriminatory. Out of the five judges of larger bench, three ruled in favour of the scheme, upholding its constitutional validity and said it cannot be equated with any kind of reservation, while two other judges ruled against it.

The judgement was pronounced on Friday after hearing a bunch of PILs demanding that the state government should implement the scheme in Gujarat. The Modi government has not implemented the scheme, launched in the country in 2008, in the state saying that it is 'discriminatory' in nature.

Justices VM Sahai, DH Vaghela and Akil Kureshi said that it is an "affirmative action" and "not discriminatory" in nature. The majority verdict said that it cannot be equated with any kind of reservation. It said that it does not violate Article 15 (1) of the Constitution. A direction should be given to the state government to implement the scheme. The Article 15 (1) says state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

However, the dissenting opinion of Justice RR Tripathi and JB Pardiwala, was that the scheme was against the Constitution as it violates Article 15 (1). The minority opinion said that "it is our view that the scheme is discriminatory in nature and the direction should not be given to the state government to implement it".

The Central Government scheme is for students belonging to five religious minorities including Muslims whose parents have annual income below Rs 1 lakh. In this scheme, the Central government gives 75 per cent of the scholarship amount while states have to bear the rest 25 per cent.

A Congress leader Adam Chaki had filed a PIL, seeking direction from the court for implementation of Centre's scheme by the Gujarat government.