Who are 'minorities'? SC asks minority commission to admit plea on identity

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday asked National Commission for Minorities to consider a plea seeking direction for the government to define "minorities" and lay down guidelines for their identification.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna declined to entertain the plea saying it would be appropriate for the petitioner, advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, to make a representation before the Commission.

The bench said that the petitioner can approach the apex court again if he is not satisfied with the Commission's decision.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) stated that at present, Hindus who are merely 2-8 per cent in North East states are treated as Majority and Christians, who are 80-90 per cent gets the benefits of minorities.

It sought to lay down guidelines for identification of minorities to ensure that only those religious and linguistic groups, which are socially, economically and politically non-dominant and numerically inferior, may enjoy rights and protections guaranteed under Articles 29-30 (Right of Freedom of religion).

The petition further prayed that those religious and linguistic groups of Indian citizens, which are socially, economically and politically non-dominant and numerically not more than 1 per cent of total population of that respective State may enjoy rights and protections guaranteed under Articles 29-30 of the Constitution.

The petition stated eleven-judges bench of the apex court in 2002 had said that it's necessary that religious and linguistic minorities for the purposes of Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution be determined state-wise countenancing numeric proportions of various communities in each state.

However, despite the above unequivocal position of law, the Central government has failed to apply the above principle evenly by excluding the Hindus from the purview of minority status and benefits.

The National Commission for Minority Act, 1993 notified only five communities - Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis as 'minority' community, without defining minority and framing parameters for identification of minority, the petition said.

"Muslims are actually majority in Lakshadweep (96.20 per cent) and Jammu and Kashmir (68.30per cent) and there is significant population in Assam (34.20 per cent), West Bengal (27.5 per cent), Kerala (26.60 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (19.30 per cent) and Bihar (18 per cent). However, they are enjoying the 'minority' status, and the communities, which are real minorities, are not getting their legitimate share because of non-identification of minorities at state level, thereby jeopardising their fundamental rights. This clearly reflects arbitrariness and illegality in Section 2(c) of NCM Act," the petition added.

It further contended that Hindus are real minority in eight states - Lakshadweep (2.5 per cent), Mizoram (2.75 per cent), Nagaland (8.75 per cent), Meghalaya (11 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (28 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (29 per cent), Manipur (31 per cent) and Punjab (38.40 per cent), but "their minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily" to majority population because the Central government has not notified them a 'minority' under Section 2 (c) of the NCM Act.

Therefore, Hindus are being deprived of their rights, guaranteed under the Articles 25-30, hence, the notification (of 1993 notifying five communities as minorities) and Section 2(c) of the NCM Act is not only arbitrary and unreasonable but also invalid and ultra-virus the Constitution, the petition said.

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