Decision to notify minorities will be taken after discussion: Centre tells SC

Affidavit was filed on plea seeking directions for framing of guidelines for identification of minorities at state level, contending that Hindus are in minority in 10 states

New Delhi: The Ministry of Minority Affairs on Monday told the Supreme Court that the power to notify minorities is vested with the Union government and any decision in this regard will be taken after discussion with state governments and other stakeholders.

In a fresh affidavit, the Ministry said the Central government has notified six communities as minority communities under section 2C of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.

“The question involved in the writ petition has far-reaching ramifications throughout the country and therefore any stand taken without detailed deliberations with the stakeholders may result in an unintended complication for the country,” stated the affidavit filed on a plea of advocate Ashwini Upadhyay.

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It added, “Though the power is vested with the Central government to notify minorities, the stand to be formulated by the Central government with regard to issues raised in this group of petitions will be finalised after having a wide consultation with the state governments and other stakeholders. This will ensure that the central government is able to place a considered view before this court taking into consideration several sociological, and other aspects obviating any unintended complications in the future concerning such a vital issue.”

The affidavit was filed on a plea seeking directions for framing of guidelines for the identification of minorities at the state level, contending that Hindus are in minority in 10 states.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs had in March told the apex court that certain states, where Hindus or other communities are less in number, can declare them a minority community within their own territories, to enable them to set up and administer their own institutions.

Putting the onus on states, the Central government in an affidavit had stated that state governments too have the power to declare communities as a minority.

The affidavit filed in the top court by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs had said, “state governments can also declare a religious or linguistic community as a ‘minority community’ within the state”.

States can also declare a religious or linguistic group as a minority community within its territory, as Maharashtra did in the case of Jews in 2016, Karnataka notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani, and Gujrati languages as minority languages over there, it had said.

The response of the Central government had come on a plea filed in the year 2020 by Upadhyay, that as per the 2011 Census, Hindus were a minority in Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Punjab and that they should be given minority status in these states in accordance with the principle laid down by the Supreme Court in its 2002 TMA Pai Foundation ruling.

The apex court in the TMA Pai case had said that for the purposes of Article 30 which deals with the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, religious and linguistic minorities have to be considered state-wise.

Under Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, the Centre had in 1993 notified five communities — Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians — as minorities.

The affidavit of the Centre had said that the petitioner’s contention that followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who are minorities in Laddakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, can’t administer their institutions were not correct.

“They can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice in the said State and laying down guidelines for identification of minorities at State level may be considered by the concerned state governments,” the Centre’s affidavit had added.

Seeking the dismissal of the plea, the Centre had said in the affidavit that “the reliefs sought by the petitioner are not in larger public or national interest”.

It had said the issue of identification of religious and linguistic minorities cannot be straight-jacketed and “religious and linguistic minorities are spread all over the country and are not related or restricted to any single state/UT of India. India is a country with very unique characteristics. A religious group that is in majority in one state may be in minority in another state.”

The plea had sought direction from the Centre to lay down guidelines for the identification of minorities at the state level saying the Hindus are in minority in 10 states and are not able to avail the benefits of schemes meant for minorities.

In his plea, the petitioner had also challenged the validity of Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act 2004 for giving unbridled power to the Centre and being manifestly arbitrary, irrational and offensive.

The plea had said, “Direct and declare that followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who are minorities in Laddakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice in the spirit of the TMA Pai Ruling.”

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