By A. Mirsab
Mumbai: All the minority commission members who were recently expelled by the BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra have filed a petition here on Friday against their sacking before the Bombay High Court.
The former members, including vice Chairperson of the commission have contented their sacking as ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘unlawful’ and have prayed for intervention of Bombay High Court to reinstate then on their position till they complete remaining tenure in the office.
The said petition will now come for hearing on Tuesday the 3rd of February.
The petition is signed by Janet Desauza (Former Vice-Chairperson) and other former members Liaqat Ansari, Gulzar Azmi, Majeed Qureshi and Sardar Jaswant Singh. Munaf Hakeem, former Chair Person could not sign the petition due to his unavailability in the city at the time of filing of the petition.
Speaking with TwoCircles.net, Munaf Hakeem said, “Our tenure was secured by the Maharashtra State Minority Commission Act 2004 for 5 years. We cannot be removed in the mid-way without being heard in the matter by giving a reasonable opportunity to present our side”.
Section 4 of the Maharashtra State Minority Commission Act 2004 details term of office and conditions of the services of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and Members. This section sets the tenure of them to be five years with a clause ‘Subject to the pleasure of government’.
Apparently the government has acted in restructuring the commission based on this ‘clause’ but the former members are claiming that the government misconceived the meaning of the said clause, according to whom the section has to be read in the light of section 4.
“The government has misunderstood the meaning of ‘pleasure of government’ in a section of the Act by assuming it to be ‘at their will’ whereas it has not observed the subsequent section in the Act that clearly explained in what all conditions a member or vice chair person or chairperson of the commission can be disqualified by the government”, he explained.
Hakeem and all other members in his office were sacked only a week after he had announced of conducting a fresh survey by Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) on the percentage of Muslims lying in the state’s prison.
Section 5 of the said Act allows state government to disqualify or to discontinue Chair Person or vice Chair Person or any member if he is convicted and sentenced for any offence that involves moral turpitude or he is of unsound mind or an un-discharged solvent or he has been dismissed from service of any state or central government or becomes incapable of acting or he remains absent from three consecutive meetings of the commission without a prior leave.
Hakeem alleges that their sacking did not fit in any of the criteria mentioned in the Act adding, “Neither there was anything to suggest that any of us abused our powers that would have given feeling of continuation of us in the office to be detrimental to the interests of Minorities in the state.”
All the expelled men had more than two years of tenure remaining in the office. Hakeem had two and half years, Janet Desauza had three years where as other members were freshly appointed in September 2014.