Karnataka government: Have power to consider demand for minority tag

It cites Karnataka State Minorities Commission Act in the High Court.

BENGALURU: The state government on Thursday asserted before the Karnataka High Court that it has the power to consider the demand for minority status for a community and also to recognise it as minority community under the Karnataka State Minorities Commission Act.

The statement of objections has been filed before a division bench of Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice B M Shyam Prasad which is hearing a batch of public interest petitions challenging the constitution of a commission by the Karnataka State Minority Commission to look into the demand for religious minority status for Lingayats/Veerashaivas.

In its objections, the government contended that it was conscious that there may be differences of opinion amongst groups of members of the community itself, as to who are the real Lingayats, but this not have a bearing on consideration of the group/community, seeking recognition them as minorities.

On the basis of the inputs and advise/opinion of the group of experts who will look into the materials, the Commission may make appropriate recommendations to the government. It will be for the state government to consider recognition of the community as a minority as provided in terms of Section 2(d) of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission Act, the government said.

Further, it has also stated that a request will be made to central government to notify Lingayats as minorities so as to enable the members of the community to avail of, and be entitled to, the protection contemplated under Part-III of the Constitution.

The state government also pointed out that in many decisions of the Union government and also certain observations of a few foreign authors, certain wrong impressions were formed about ‘Lingayat religion’ on account of the fact that Veerashaivas also claim that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are one and the same, which is not correct. Veerashaivas are half Lingayats and Lingayats are not Veerashaivas, the government said.  

The state has also noted that when Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs were recognised as minority communities under the National Minority Commissions Act and the State Minority Commissions Act and constitutional guarantees extended to them, it was not fair to deny similar treatment to Lingayats.

The petitioner cannot prevent the state government from discharging its functions under the statute and hence the petition is liable to be dismissed, the state said. The court adjourned the matter to April 3. Meanwhile, the Union government has sought time to file its response on the issue.

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The New Indian Express