States Can Recognise Any Religious Community as a Minority: Centre to SC
The affidavit was submitted in response to a plea by Ashwini Upadhyay claiming Hindus are a minority in 10 states.
The Quint DAILY
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The Ministry of Minority Affairs of the central government, in an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, asserted that state governments have the power to identify any religious or linguistic community, including Hindus, as a "minority community" within the "said state", news agency PTI reported.
The submission was made in response to a 2020 petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who contended that Hindus are in minority in 10 states as per the 2011 census, and said that they should be given a minority status to avail the benefits of schemes reserved for minorities.
The petitioner had also challenged the validity of the Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act, 2004 (NCMEI Act) which grants powers to the Centre to identify minority communities in India.
What the Petitioner Said
Section 2(f) of the NCMEI Act empowers the Centre to identify and notify minority communities in India. Upadhyay alleged that the Section gives unbridled power to the Centre and termed it "manifestly arbitrary, irrational, and offending".
The petitioner, resuming their submission, indicated that the followers of Judaism, Buddhaism, and Hinduism, who are “real minorities” in states like Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Manipur cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Disputing this, the Centre said that Upadhyay’s claim is "not correct” since states can also “certify institutions as being minority institutions as per the rules of the said state."
The Centre's Response
The Supreme Court in its 2002 TMA Pai case, had said that in accordance with Article 30 of the Constitution, which deals with the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, minority communities have to be considered state-wise.
The Minority Affairs Ministry also denied the submission that section 2(f) of the NCMEI act confers unrestrained power to the Centre.
The affidavit stated that schemes reserved for the disadvantaged, underprivileged children or candidates of minority communities “cannot be faulted with.”
The Centre also told the top court that if states alone had the power to enact laws on the status of minorities, then “Parliament will be denuded of its power” on the issue and that would be incongruous with the constitution.
(With inputs from PTI, Indian Express.)
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