Minorities rights in India

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Few months back, the Union government had informed the top court that the state governments can now grant minority status to any religious or linguistic community, including Hindus.

The SC had sought the Union government’s response in a plea that sought directions for framing of guidelines identifying minorities at the state level.

The expression “minorities” appears in some Articles of the Constitution, but isn't defined anywhere.

General case and situation of the issue:

The plea contended that Hindus are in an exceedingly ‘minority’ in six states and three Union Territories of India but were allegedly powerless to avail themselves of the advantages of schemes meant for minorities.

Plea Showed as per 2011 census Hindus became a minority in Lakshadweep (2.5%), Mizoram (2.75%), Nagaland (8.75%), Meghalaya (11.53%), J&K (28.44%), Arunachal Pradesh (29%), Manipur (31.39%), and Punjab (38.40%).

They should run minority status in these states in accordance with the principle laid down by the SC in its 2002 TMA Pai Foundation and 2005 Bal Patil Case ruling.

TMA Pai Case:

The SC had said that for the needs of Article 30 that deals with the rights of minorities to determine and administer educational institutions, religious and linguistic minorities should be considered state-wise.

Bal Patil Case:

In 2005, the SC in its judgement in ‘Bal Patil’ mentioned the TMA Pai ruling.

The legal position clarifies that henceforth the unit for determining status of both linguistic and non secular minorities would be ‘state’.

The petition claimed that NCMEI (National Commission for Minority Education Institution) Act 2004 gives unbridled power to the Centre and is “manifestly arbitrary, irrational, and offending”.

Section 2(f) of NCMEI Act 2004 confers power to the Centre to spot and notify minority communities in India.

Union government’s stand on Minorities Rights in India

The Centre said the petitioners’ argument isn't correct since states can even “certify institutions as being minority institutions as per the foundations of the said state.

The Centre recognized that Maharashtra had notified Jews as a minority community in 2016. Karnataka had notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani and Gujarati as minority languages.

Parliament and State legislatures have concurrent powers to enact laws produced for the protection of minorities and their interests.

Matters like declaring the followers of Judaism, Bahaism, and Hinduism who are minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice within the said state and laying down guideline(s) for identification of minority at state level is also considered by the concerned state governments.

The TMA Pai ruling also “reveals that the SC has nowhere eroded the facility of the Central Government to notify a community as a ‘minority’.

The Parliament was empowered under Article 246 of the Constitution read with Entry 20, “economic and social planning”, of the Concurrent List to enact laws to push and protect the interests of minorities.

Parliament has the legislative competence and therefore the Central government has the chief competence to notify a community as a minority under Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992.

What are the Constitutional Provisions for Minority?

Article 29:

It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a definite language, script or culture of its own, shall have the proper to conserve the identical.

It grants protection to both religious minorities still as linguistic minorities.

However, the SC held that the scope of this text isn't necessarily restricted to minorities only, as use of the word ‘section of citizens’ within the Article includes minorities additionally because the majority.

Article 30:

All minorities shall have the correct to determine and administer educational institutions of their choice.

The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and doesn't touch any section of citizens (as under Article 29).

Article 350-B:

The 7th Constitutional (Amendment) Act 1956 inserted this text which provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India.

It would be the duty of the Special Officer to research all matters regarding the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.

Government of India notified minorities

Currently, only those communities notified under section 2(c) of the NCM Act, 1992, by the central government are thought to be minority. In 1992, with the enactment of the NCM Act, 1992, the MC became a statutory body and was renamed because the NCM.

In 1993, the primary Statutory National Commission was founded and five religious communities viz. The Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) were notified as minority communities. In 2014, Jains were also notified as a minority community.

Reports on Minority Rights

Backward Classes Commission, 1953 - Report

Backward Classes Commission was established to list down the groups or communities in India to be treated as socially and educationally backward classes additionally to those specified as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs and STs) under Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution, and to form recommendations regarding the steps to be taken by the govt in order to alleviate the position of those groups.

According to the Commission's report, which was submitted in 1953, backward classes were generally defined because of the communities within the lower end of Hindu hierarchy. However, the report also included communities from scheduled castes who had converted to Christianity, but were unable to transcend the class structure under Other Backward Classes (OBC). Dalit communities Sikhs were included in Scheduled Castes. Muslims weren't mentioned anywhere during this report

Committee on Religious and Moral Instruction 1959 - Report

The Committee on Religious and Moral Instruction was appointed by the Ministry of Education to review the difficulty of spiritual and moral instruction in educational institutions. The commission recommends that a basic education of all religions, religious leaders and philosophies be made an element of the college curriculum, for a comparative and sympathetic study of religions and their underlying philosophies and ethical codes. This recommendation is created not just for government schools and colleges. but minority institutions. The aim is to come up with a greater understanding and tolerance towards other religions and spiritual groups.

The present situation has to be evaluated critically to convey the minorities in multicultural societies their perspective and place in democratic polity. Democracy is critical not simply in terms of free speech and other things, it's significant because its overall purpose is to bring different points of views, and different sensibilities into constant creative interaction, as truth can only start up intercultural dialogue. Modern societies within the west have adhered to federalism, sub-national constitutions, regionalism and social action to guard the rights of minorities. But within the case of India where the modernity of society is in quite early stage (remaining more as an illiberal society), both the federal package and social action politics don't seem to be designed to safeguard the rights of minorities from majoritarianism. Many West European countries that aren't multicultural like India are thinking seriously to consider the rights of the non-majority groups. Nicole Topperwien says that participation of rights can render states ready to answer the multicultural challenge. Participation rights are here understood as guaranteed and institutionalised special influence on the choice making process in state institutions- this might be proportional, over-proportional, or equal representation of the groups. The adoption of rights and safeguards for minorities, the spirit of secularism and equality within the constitution already fulfils this requirement. However, what we lack is that the political will of reinforcing these constitutional values by strengthening and fortifying them. Secularism and equality might not be able to stand as a foundational concept by itself; hence there's a desire for stronger political will so as to fulfill the challenges faced by these concepts.