'Cannot Pass' Directions On Hindus As Minorities In States: Supreme Court

Supreme Court said it “cannot pass” directions on the issue of Hindus being minority in states

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court has said that pleas seeking guidelines for identification of minorities at the district level is “contrary” to the law as the religious and linguistic minority status have to be considered state-wise.

The observation by a bench of Justices UU Lalit and SR Bhat came while it was hearing a plea challenging a provision of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act 1992, and also seeking a direction to the Centre to define “minority” and lay down a guideline for the identification of minorities at the district level.

The Supreme Court told the counsel appearing for the petitioner that this plea cannot be entertained.

“It is contrary to law,” the bench orally observed and referred to the TMA Pai judgement of 2002.

The plea, filed by Mathura-resident Devkinandan Thakur, has said that after the judgement in the TMA Pai case, the legal position is very clear that the unit for determining the status of linguistic and religious minorities would be state.

The plea, filed through advocate Ashutosh Dubey, has sought to declare the notification on the minority community, issued by the government on October 23, 1993, as arbitrary, irrational, and contrary to Articles 14, 15, 21, 29, 30 of the Constitution.

Earlier when the matter was heard on July 18, the top court had questioned the petitioner for arguing that Hindus are not getting “minority” status in states, where they are in the minority, and had asked whether there were any “concrete examples” to substantiate the contention.

The top court had then said it would deal with the issue only if a concrete case can be presented before the court.

During the hearing on Monday, the bench observed that the petitioner is seeking a prayer regarding the identification of minorities at the district level but this cannot be entertained. The bench was informed that a separate plea, seeking directions for framing of guidelines for the identification of minorities at the state level contending that Hindus are a minority in 10 states, is pending before another bench of the Supreme Court.

Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, who is the petitioner in the plea pending before another bench, told the top court that there are some states where Hindus are in minority.

The bench observed that it “cannot pass” general directions on the issue.

The top court said the plea filed by Mr Thakur will be listed along with the pending petition in the first week of September before the appropriate court.

In his plea, Mr Thakur has claimed that the facts constituting the cause of action accrued on May 17, 1992, when the Act came into effect and by using unbridled power under section 2(c), the Centre arbitrarily notified five communities namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis as a minority at the national level against the spirit of the TMA Pai judgement.

The plea has said the petitioner is filing the public interest litigation (PIL) under Article 32 of the Constitution to challenge the validity of section 2(c) of the NCM Act 1992 for not only giving unbridled power to the Centre but also being manifestly arbitrary, irrational and offending Articles 14, 15, 21, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.

It has sought direction to declare that section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act is void, unconstitutional, and inoperative for being violative of Articles 14, 15, 21, 29, and 30 of the Constitution.

“Cause of action continues till date because followers of Judaism, Bahaism, and Hinduism; who are real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice because of non-identification of ‘minority’ at the state level, thus jeopardising their basic rights guaranteed under Article 29-30,” it said.

The plea alleged that their right under Articles 29-30 is being siphoned off illegally to the majority community in such states because the Centre has not notified them as ‘minority’ under the NCM Act.

It further claimed that the Centre through the notification dated October 23, 1993, arbitrarily notified five communities as ‘minority’ communities without defining ‘minority’ and framing guidelines for identification at the state level.

“In 2014, Jains were added to the list as a sixth minority, though the three judges’ bench of this court in Bal Patil Case (2005 verdict) had very categorically refused to grant minority status to Jains,” the plea said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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