The Kerala High Court has come down heavily on the Pinarayi Vijayan led Kerala government as the Court pondered why the government was financing a religious activity.
A division bench comprising Justice A Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Kauser Edappagath, while hearing a petition against the Kerala government’s decision to provide pension to madrasa teachers in the state, observed that madrasas in Kerala are starkly different from those being run in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal which have been imparting secular as well as religious education. The Court asked, “In Kerala, these are involved purely in a religious activity. What is the purpose of contributing funds by the state for a religious activity?”
The High Court also asked the Kerala government to clarify whether it has made any contribution to the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund.
The petitioner’s counsel, C Rajendran stated that reading of the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund Act, 2019, it is clear that the state’s Madrasas are only interested in imparting knowledge pertaining to Islam – Quran and other religious textbooks. Hence, it was unjustified to pump large swathes of public money to fund religious educations and is against the principles of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.
The petitioner – Manoj, secretary of Citizen Organisation for Democracy, Equality, Tranquility and Secularism, claimed that the Pinarayi Vijayan led government is contributing money to the scheme. The welfare fund is largely for the payment of a fixed amount and pension to a member who has completed 60 years and has remitted contribution for not less than five years.
Vijayan’s predecessor, Oomen Chandy also has not covered himself in glory. As per a discriminatory government order passed by the government of Kerala in 2015, it was stated that reservation among Muslims and other minority communities would be in the ratio 80:20, which meant that 80 per cent of all reservations would be set aside for Muslims alone, while 20 per cent of the remaining quotas would be divided between Latin Catholic Christians and other minority communities in the state. This discriminatory policy was brought in by the Congress-led UDF government in 2015, during which time the chief minister was Oomen Chandy.
In a landmark verdict delivered last week, the Kerala High Court ruled that the state government’s sub-classification of minorities by providing merit-cum-means scholarship at 80 per cent to the Muslim community and 20 per cent to the Latin Catholic Christians and converted Christians cannot be “legally sustained”. While hearing the petition filed by Advocate Justin Pallivathukkal, the division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shahi P Chaly ruled the benefits should be in proportion to the various minorities.
The Kerala High Court, in its stinging verdict, said, “There is nothing wrong in the state government providing facilities to weaker sections of the community, but when it comes to dealing with the notified minorities, it has to treat them equally, and it is not vested with any powers to treat them unequally, which is quite discernible from the provisions of the Constitution and laws.”
The Kerala government should desist from furthering the cause of only one religion even if it is one of the most coveted vote banks.