In a diverse country like India, special group rights are as important as individual rights to safeguard the minority communities. In fact, the collective rights are basic pre-conditions for according individual rights, Nalsar University of Law vice-chancellor Prof Faizan Mustafa has observed. He was delivering CD Deshmukh memorial lecture on ‘Minority rights under Indian Constitution: A trilogy of judicial errors’ here on Saturday.
CD Deshmukh was the first Indian governor of the Reserve Bank of India and was known for his deft handling of division of assets and liabilities between India and Pakistan during Partition in 1947. He became finance minister.
“The importance for collective rights emerge from the premise that unless a community, minority or majority, is respected, individuals of that community cannot enjoy the fundamental rights accorded by the Constitution. For a country like India, individual rights alone are insufficient.”
The debate on minorities should not be seen as communalism versus secularism debate but be seen in the democratic context of addressing the needs of the communities. “Article 29 of the Constitution, which is concerned with minority rights, has two dimensions: respecting the fact that these communities have distinct culture and second, there is a need for explicit rights to protect the communities,” Mustafa added.
He sought to explain how judiciary had erred in interpreting minorities’ status and their rights in India using several court cases relating to the Aligarh Muslim University.
“On several occasions, the minority-institution status of the AMU has been contested in different cases. Many a time, judges have tried to describe Muslims as dominant community who do not any need special attention and rights,” he said. CCMB founder-director PM Bhargava and noted development economist D Narasimha Reddy also spoke.