National Commission for Minorities

National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992

  • The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 was enacted in 1992 for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of Minorities. The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It empowers the Union Government to set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).

Functions

  • Evaluate the progress of the development of Minorities under the Union and States.
  • Monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.
  • Make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of Minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • Look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
  • Suggest appropriate measures in respect of any Minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • Make periodical or special reports to the Central Government on any matter pertaining to Minorities and in particular the difficulties confronted by them.

Powers

  • Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath.
  • Requiring the discovery and production of any document.
  • Receiving evidence on affidavit.
  • Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.

NCM Members

  • The Act states[that the Commission shall consist of
    • A Chairperson,
    • A Vice Chairperson and
    • Five Members to be nominated by the Central Government from amongst persons of eminence, ability and integrity.
  • The five members, including the Chairperson, shall be from amongst the minority communities.
  • Tenure
    • The Chairperson and every Member shall hold office for a term of three years from the date he/she assumes office.
  • Removal
    • The Central Government shall remove a person from the office of Chairperson or a Member if that person—
      • Becomes an undischarged insolvent;
      • Is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for an offence which, in the opinion of the Central Government, involves moral turpitude;
      • Becomes of unsound mind and stands so declared by a competent court;
      • Refuses to act or becomes incapable of acting;
      • Is, without obtaining leave of absence from the Commission, absent from three consecutive meetings of the Commission; or
      • Has, in the opinion of the Central Government, so abused the position of Chairperson or Member as to render that person’s continuance in office detrimental to the interests of minorities or the public interest

 

 

In Focus: Minorities

Constitutional Provisions

  • Although Indian Constitution does not define word Minority but it has provided constitutional safeguards and fundamental rights to minorities

Fundamental Rights

  • Right of ‘any section of the citizens’ to ‘conserve’ its ‘distinct language, script or culture’; [Article 29(1)]
  • Right of all Religious and Linguistic Minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice;[Article 30(1)]
  • Freedom of Minority-managed educational institutions from discrimination in the matter of receiving aid from the State;[Article30(2)]

Other provisions

  • Rights for any section of population for language spoken by them ;[Article 347]
  • Provision for facilities of instruction in mother tongue ; [Article 350A]
  • Provisioning a special officer for linguistic minorities and defining his duties ; [ Article 350B]

Constitutional goal

  • In the past, the court has observed that the constitutional goal of minority commissions is to “create social conditions where there remains no necessity to shield or protect the rights of minorities”.
  • The minority commissions have to direct their activities “to maintain the unity and integrity of India by eliminating the need for identifying communities as majority and minority”

 

Who is a minority

International law

  • Under International law, minorities are groups that possess distinct and stable ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristics.
  • The crucial point is that these characteristics differ from the rest of the population, and that these groups wish to preserve their distinctive identity even if this identity does not conform to the norms and the values of the majority.
  • Thus, a minority is a group that is numerically smaller in relation to the rest of the population, it is non-dominant to the extent that its values are either inadequately or not represented in the public sphere or in the constitution of societal norms, it has characteristics which differ from the majority group. Thus, numerical inferiority or powerlessness is the test to determine minority status.

Indian provision

  • The SC has consistently maintained that minorities are to be defined on the basis of “numerical inferiority”.
  • Since the constitution talks of both religious as well as linguistic minorities, courts have held that minorities are to be defined at the level of the state, as states were carved out on a linguistic basis.

 

Way Ahead

  • Since the linguistic basis of state creation is no longer valid after the creation of Telangana, the apex court may re-examine this issue in the context of religious minorities.
  • One approach can be to define religious minorities nationally and linguistic minorities on the basis of the state.
  • Minority status can also be determined in relation to the source and territorial application of the particular legislation against which protection is claimed. If it is a parliamentary law, minorities can be defined nationally. On the other hand, if it is state law, minorities may be defined on the basis of numerical inferiority in the state.

List of minorities

  • The Central Government by way of two notifications, one in 1993 and the other in 2014, has notified six religious communities, namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains as minorities in India.

States where Hindus are a minority

  • According to 2011 Census, Hindus are minority in eight states i.e. Lakshadweep (2.5%), Mizoram (2.75%), Nagaland (8.75%), Meghalaya (11.53%), J&K (28.44%), Arunachal Pradesh (29%), Manipur (31.39%) and Punjab (38.40%).
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