A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the Centre’s 26-year-old notification declaring five communities— Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees—as minorities. The petition filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has sought to declare as unconstitutional section 2© of the National Commission for Minority Act, 1992, under which the notification was issued on October 23, 1993.
He has sought direction for laying down of guidelines for defining the term ‘minority’, based on state-wise population of a community instead of the national average. He contended that the notification was violative of fundamental rights to health, education, shelter and livelihood.
It is also against the equality, justice and secularism, the great golden goals set out in Preamble to the Constitution, he said. The advocate said he was filing the public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue as he did not receive any response on his representation from Union Home Ministry, Ministry of Law & Justice and National Commission for Minorities.
Upadhyay filed the fresh petition as the apex court on his petition on February 11 had asked him to approach the NCM, with the direction that it will decide within three months on his representation which sought laying down of guidelines for defining the term ‘minority’ based on state-wise population of a community instead of the national average.
In his petition, the BJP leader said 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 plea sought to declare section 2© of the NCM Act 1992 “void” and “inoperative” for being “arbitrary”, “unreasonable” and "offending".
The definition of “Minority” as per Article 29-30 has left leakages in the hands of State, which shall be misused and are been misused for political benefits, the petition said, adding that the minority status be granted to Hindus in states where the number of the community has decreased.
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.
The petition stated that as per 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.
It stated that Christians are in majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland and there is significant population in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal but they are treated as Minority. Likewise, Sikhs are majority in Punjab and there is significant population in Delhi, Chandigarh and Haryana but they are treated as minority, it said.
Muslims are a majority in Lakshadweep (96.20 per cent), J&K (68.30 pc) and there is significant population of the community in Assam (34.20 pc), West Bengal (27.5 pc), Kerala (26.60 pc), Uttar Pradesh (19.30 pc) and Bihar (18 pc). However, they are enjoying ‘Minority’ status, and communities, which are real minorities, are not getting their legitimate share, jeopardizing their basic rights guaranteed under the Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the petition added.