Minority Status to Communities
- A public interest litigation (PIL) under the consideration of the Supreme Court of India challenges the power of the Centre to notify minority communities at a national level.
- The PIL explicitly challenges the constitutionality of Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act 2004, which it describes as arbitrary and in violation of Articles 14, 15, 21, 29, and 30 of the Constitution.
- “Minority,” according to Section 2(f), “means a community notified as such by the Central Government for the purposes of this Act.”
- The Centre also has similar powers under Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act, 1992.
- The Manmohan Singh government designated Jainists as a minority community in 2014, placing them sixth on the national list.
What is the contention?
- The petitioner claims that the Centre’s decision was arbitrary, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in the T. M. A. Pai Foundation versus State Of Karnataka case of 2002, which stated that “for the purpose of identifying minority, the unit will be State and not whole India.”
- The petitioner argued that the Centre’s notification has created an anomalous situation in which communities designated as minorities by the Centre enjoy that status even in States/UTs where they are the majority (for example, Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir and Christians in Nagaland), while minorities of Hinduism, Judaism, and Bahaism are not.
- The petition asks the Supreme Court to limit the Centre’s power to notify national minorities, or to direct the Centre to notify followers of Hinduism, Bahaism, and Judaism as minorities in States/UTs where they are numerically smaller; or to direct that only those communities that are “socially, economically, and politically non-dominant” in States/UTs be granted minorities status.
Stand of the Government:
- The Centre has not taken a position, one way or the other, about continuing the national list of minorities while it reiterated its power to notify communities as minorities under Central Acts.
- In the first affidavit, the Centre had pointed out that it had concurrent powers with States to take measures for the welfare of minorities.
States could have minorities notified as such within their jurisdiction, and it even cited the examples of Maharashtra recognising Jews as a minority community and Karnataka recognising speakers of several languages as linguistic minorities.
- In the second affidavit there is no such elaboration.
- While it says the power is vested in it, the affidavit does not go as far as questioning the powers of the State on this question.
- Rather than plead innocent to the charge of spreading disaffection (sedition), Gandhi declared that since he had no affection for the colonial government, it was his moral duty to disobey unjust laws.
- Sibal recalled that Gandhi had described Section 124A as “the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”.
- Gandhi also said, “Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence. But the section under which Mr Banker and I are charged is one under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases tried under it (Section 124A) and I know that some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that section.”
Source: THE HINDU.
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