The Kerala High Court on Friday said citizens from economically weaker sections could not be denied benefits because they did not identify with a religion.
“A government that claims to be progressive cannot deny benefits to such citizens merely because they do not belong to any community,” the court said, directing the state to formulate a policy and guidelines for issuing community certificates to persons who have declared themselves as non-religious.
The court issued the order while disposing of the petition filed by 12 students, who had declared they belonged to the non-religious category, seeking a directive to issue a certificate enabling them to enjoy benefits guaranteed to economically weaker sections (EWS).
They said the state had issued a list based on the recommendation of the Forward Community Commission, but it only included persons who had declared caste and community. Non-religious students were not included in EWS for the purpose of education, they said.
Issue papers under non-religious category, says HC
The court directed the government to issue certificates to the students under non-religious category so that they can seek the 10% reservation available to EWS students from communities other than SC, ST or OBC.
“They are entitled to the certificates enabling them to enjoy benefits guaranteed under Article 15 (6) if they are from EWS. They are not seeking any benefit owing to their birth into a particular community or caste,” said the court.
It said the state had to strive to minimise the inequality in income and endeavour to eliminate inequality in status and opportunities among individuals. “Such endeavours should not be confined to considerations based on community, caste and creed,” the court said.