The Supreme Court on Friday gave the Union government “the last opportunity” to respond to a public interest petition that demands minorities be identified statewise and that Hindus be declared a minority in six states and two Union territories.
A bench of Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh, hearing the petition which relied on the Supreme Court’s 2002 TMA Pai judgment that religious and linguistic minorities have to be considered statewise under the Constitution’s Article 30, gave the Centre four weeks after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought more time to file an affidavit. The court also allowed two weeks after that for filing a rejoinder, and will hear the matter after seven weeks.
Article 30 deals with the rights of minorities to establish and run educational institutions.
The petitioner, Ashwini Upadhyay, challenged the constitutional validity of Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, under which only Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians have been declared minorities, arguing that this has deprived groups like Hindus, Baha’is and Jews of “their legitimate rights”.
The petition cited the 2011 Census figures to show Hindus are a minority in six states — Mizoram (2.75 per cent), Nagaland (8.75 per cent), Meghalaya (11.53 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (29 per cent), Manipur (31.39 per cent), Punjab (38.40 per cent) —and in the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir (28.44 per cent) and Lakshadweep (2.5 per cent).
“Hindus are the real minorities in Laddakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur. But their minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily…because neither the Centre nor states have notified them as minorities… Hindus are being deprived of their basic rights and protections guaranteed under Article 29-30,” the petitioner, represented by senior Advocate C S Vaidyanathan, argued.
Accepting the petitioner’s request, the apex court transferred similar petitions against the National Commission for Minorities Act from the high courts of Gauhati, Meghalaya and Delhi to itself.
The petitioner also submitted that Christians are considered a minority despite being the majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland, and having considerable populations in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Likewise, Sikhs are also treated as a minority community in spite of their being a majority in Punjab and forming a significant part of the populations in Delhi, Chandigarh and Haryana. Muslims, who are the majority in Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir and have a significant representation in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are also considered a minority community, the petitioner stated.