The three-member committee set up by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) categorically refused to consider a plea to declare Hindus as a minority community in eight states in the country. The writ petition was filed by Ashwini Upadhyay, a Supreme Court advocate and a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
A report by the NCM sub-committee, whose members are George Kurian, Atif Rasheed and Manjit Singh Rai, stated that National Minority Commission does not have the jurisdiction to declare new minority communities and “the powers to declare a community as 'a minority community' is vested with the Central government.
The sub-committee had stated that “the definition of 'minority' in the relevant Act which is Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 clearly states that a community is listed as 'minority' as notified as such by the Central Government. In the report, the sub-committee stated that petition of Upadhyay to the National Commission for Minorities are misplaced.
Upadhyay had approached the NCM to consider his plea after the Supreme Court in 2017, while hearing his writ petition had stated that NCM should be asked to consider the representation and pass appropriate orders. Upadhyay had alleged that he had submitted a representation to NCM and on not getting any response, had filed the present Writ Petition again in 2019.
Upadhayay had stated in his initial petition filed in November 2017 that the National Minority Act needed to be repealed and that guidelines for identification of minorities need to be framed looking at Article 29, 30. The petitioner stated that some states (Jammu and Kashmir and Lakshwadeep) have Muslims in the majority while the rest have Christians in the majority (Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya) or in substantial numbers (as in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur) and Sikhs are in majority in Punjab. The petitioner wanted a directive to these states to declare Hindus as minorities.
According to the National Commission for Minorities Act, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) were declared as minorities in 1993 and in 2014, Jains were also notified as a minority community.
The report highlights that the Supreme Court, in its various orders, has discouraged the National Commission for Minorities from encouraging such claims from different communities. “The Supreme Court has suggested the NCM to propose ways and means to help create such social conditions where the concept of majority and minority can be done away altogether,” states the report.
Referring to Upadhyay’s request to repeal the notification of Minority Communities, the NCM sub-committee said that the “prayer of the petitioner does not come into the jurisdiction of the NCM. The Committee referred to the Supreme Court ruling in 1999 in Bal Patil vs Union of India to describe the functions of the NCM. “In fact, Upadhyay should not have asked for his petition to be considered on the basis of the Bal Patil case,” contends Kurian.
Kurian highlights that each community is declared a minority on an all-India basis. “Also,
Upadhyay’s plea to frame guidelines looking at Article 29, 30 is erroneous as these Articles look at the running of educational institutions by minorities. It is not for the overall development of minorities,” pointed out Kurian.
“For a community to be declared as a minority, states can request it and the government of India can notify it. No states have requested so far. A ‘minority’ notification will allow them to avail benefits such as scholarships under various welfare scheme. But, this will be contentious as this considers ‘national minority’,” explains Kurian.
Now, the Supreme Court has to decide this case and it will come up for hearing towards the end of August 2019.