No government can give religion status to any group, says Justice Patil

Bengaluru: While the state government has recommended independent religious status for the Lingayats to the Centre, kicking off a row, retired Supreme Court judge, Shivaraj Patil says the Constitution does not empower any government to give a religious status to any community. 

Speaking to the Deccan Chronicle he said it was also upto the National Minority Commission to decide on the minority status of a community.  "There are two parts (to the government's recommendation). One is recognition of a religion and the other is  grant of minority status considering the economic backwardness of a particular group. For the second, there are minority commissions both at the state level and at the Centre. A community, which is prosperous in one region, may be backward in other parts of the country. So the National Minority Commission (NMC) has to look into this issue," he explained.

Asked how Jains had managed to get recognition as belonging to a separate religion as recently as 2013, Justice Patil said he would have to study the matter  to answer the question.

When his attention was drawn to the strong opposition by another retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Santosh Hegde to the  state government's recommendation on Lingayats to the Centre, Justice Patil said, "I read his statement. He has talked about it from a different angle. I have to be more careful considering my background. But I have told you what the Constitution has to say about this." 

Making it clear that he would not go into issues of faith and religion or  politics, he revealed that even before the government could set up a committee to look into the demand of the Lingayats for  religion status, both the Lingayats and Veerashaivas  had approached him to head an expert committee to go into the issue, but he had refused the offer.

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