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States can identify Minorities Said Centre

Context

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

Why in news?

  • The Centre was responding to a petition filed stating that the followers of Judaism, Baha’ism and Hinduism — who are the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur.
  • They however cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  • The government’s affidavit explained that Parliament and State legislatures have concurrent powers to enact laws to provide for the protection of minorities and their interests.

Various states on Minorities

  • The Centre gave the example of how Maharashtra notified ‘Jews’ as a minority community within the State.
  • Again, Karnataka notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lambadi, Hindi, Konkani and Gujarati as minority languages within the State.

Who are the Minorities?

  • Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jain and Zorastrians (Parsis) have been notified as minority communities under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
  • As per the Census 2011, the percentage of minorities in the country is about 19.3% of the total population of the country.
  • The population of Muslims are 14.2%; Christians 2.3%; Sikhs 1.7%, Buddhists 0.7%, Jain 0.4% and Parsis 0.006%.
  • Minority Concentration Districts (MCD), Minority Concentration Blocks and Minority Concentration Towns, have been identified on the basis of both population data and backwardness parameters of Census 2001 of these areas.

Defining Minorities

  • The Constitution recognizes Religious minorities in India and Linguistic minorities in India through Article 29 and Article 30.
  • But Minority is not defined in the Constitution.
  • Currently, the Linguistic minorities in India are identified on a state-wise basis thus determined by the state government whereas Religious minorities in India are determined by the Central Government.
  • The Parliament has the legislative powers and the Centre has the executive competence to notify a community as a minority under Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992.

Article 29: It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script, or culture of its own, shall have the rights of minorities in India to conserve the same. Article 29 is applied to both minorities (religious minorities in India and Linguistic minorities in India) and also the majority. It also includes – rights of minorities in India to agitate for the protection of language.

Article 30: All minorities shall have the rights of minorities in India to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. Article 30 recognises only Religious minorities in India and Linguistic minorities in India (not the majority). It includes the rights of minorities in India to impart education to their children in their own language.

Article 350-B: Originally, the Constitution of India did not make any provision with respect to the Special Officer for Linguistic minorities in India. However, the 7th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1956 inserted Article 350-B in the Constitution. It provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India. It would be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.

Source – The Hindu

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October 2022
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