SC tells panel to consider plea for defining minorities
New Delhi, Feb. 11 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Monday directed the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to decide within three months on a representation seeking laying down of guidelines for defining the term ‘minority’ based on state-wise population of a community instead of the national average.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay to re-file his representation to the minority panel which, in turn, will take a decision on it within three months from Monday.
“Instead of entertaining the present writ petition, we are of the view that at this stage the National Commission for Minorities should be asked to consider the representation dated November 17, 2017 filed by the petitioner (Annexure P2 to the writ petition) and pass appropriate orders thereon,” said the bench, also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
“The Court would expect the National Commission for Minorities to take decision in the matter as early as possible, preferably within a period of three months from today. Once the said exercise is completed, the petitioner will be free to avail of such remedies as available to him in law,” it said.
Upadhyay, in his plea, has said that the term minority needed to be redefined and reconsidered in the context of population of a community in a state, instead of nationwide population data.
The plea said that Hindus, who are a majority community as per national data, are a minority in several north-eastern states and in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the Hindu community is deprived of benefits which are available to the minority communities in these states, the plea said, adding that NCM should reconsider the definition of minority in this context.
The apex court had on November 10, 2017, declined to entertain a plea filed by Upadhyay seeking minority status for Hindus in seven states and one Union Territory and asked him to approach the NCM.
The petition sought directions to define ‘minorities’ and lay down guidelines for their identification to ensure that only those religious and linguistic groups which are socially economically and politically non-dominant and numerically inferior may enjoy rights and protection.
It further sought that only those religious and linguistic groups which are also numerically not more than 1 percent of total population of that respective state may enjoy rights and protection guaranteed under Articles 29-30 of the Constitution.
The plea sought to declare section 2(c) of the NCM Act 1992 “void” and “inoperative” for being “arbitrary”, “unreasonable” and “offending”.
The section states that “Minority” means a community notified as such by the central government through which the Centre notified only five communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis.
The plea had sought minority status for Hindus in seven states and one Union Territory where the number of the community has fallen down, according to the Census 2011.
“According to 2011 Census, Hindus are minority in eight states — Lakshadweep (2.5 percent), Mizoram (2.75 percent), Nagaland (8.75 percent), Meghalaya (11.53 percent), J&K (28.44 percent), Arunachal Pradesh (29 percent), Manipur (31.39 percent) and Punjab (38.40 percent).
“Their minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily to the majority population because neither Central nor the state governments have notified Hindus as a ‘minority’ under the National Commission for Minority Act. Therefore, Hindus are being deprived of their basic rights,” the plea had said.