Catholics welcome suspension of discriminatory order by Indian court
Catholics in the Indian state of Kerala have welcomed a court ruling that overturned a state government order they said was unfair to Christians by distributing scholarship funds to students.
On May 28, the southern state’s highest court suspended a 2015 government order after finding it favored Muslims in distributing merit and means scholarships to minority religious communities.
“We are very happy with the order, which has recognized our position,” said Father Jacob Palackapilly, deputy secretary general of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) which campaigned against the order.
“We want the government to do everyone justice equally and allocate funds based on the population ratio,” he told UCA News on May 29.
The state order allocated 80 percent of scholarship funds to Muslims, while only 20 percent was allocated to Christians and other minorities such as Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
Church leaders cited the state census to say the ordinance violated the proportional distribution of funding, as Christians make up 39% of the state’s minority population while Muslims constitute 60%.
The government order was totally discriminatory and deprived many deserving Christians of the benefits of the scholarship program.
The High Court, in its order, said the government awarding the scholarship at an 80:20 ratio was “legally unsustainable.”
“The order of government was totally discriminatory and deprived many deserving Christians of the benefits of the scholarship program,” said Father Palackapilly.
Of the 33 million inhabitants of Kerala, 18.38% are Christians, while Muslims make up 26.56%. The majority of Hindus make up 54%.
In terms of numbers, Christians (6 million) and Muslims (9.7 million) together make up 15.7 million or 99.7% of the religious minorities in the state.
The government also limited the benefits of the scholarships to only Latin Rite Catholics and converted Christians from lower castes, who were seen as financially backward, which some church officials said had the effect of “dividing the Christian community. herself”.
The largest Christian group in Kerala is made up of Catholics made up of three rites – Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara and Latin. The other major groups are the Ottodox, the Jacobites and the Protestant Christians.
The court order came in response to a public interest dispute initiated by Justine Pallivathukkal, a Catholic from the Palakkad district of Kerala.
Earlier, Catholic bishops called on Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to end discrimination against Christians in the distribution of scholarships. However, no action was taken.
The Muslim community, however, wants the state government to appeal the High Court’s order to the Supreme Court, the country’s highest court.