NEW DELHI: A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking a transfer of all pending petitions before various high courts challenging the validity of the Centre's 26-year-old notification declaring five communities -- Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees -- as minorities.
The plea filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay has urged for a transfer of the cases pending in the Delhi High Court, Meghalaya High Court and Gauhati High Court, which have challenged the constitutional validity of section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, under which the notification was issued on October 23, 1993.
The petition, filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey, said in order to avoid multiplicity of litigations and conflicting views, the plea has been moved before the apex court.
"Denial of minority rights to real minorities and arbitrary and irrational disbursement of minority benefits to majority infringes upon the fundamental right to the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth," the plea said.
In his petition, the petitioner said Hindus, who are a majority community according to national data, are a minority in several north-eastern states and in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the Hindu community is deprived of the benefits that are available to the minority communities in these states, the plea said, adding that the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) should reconsider the definition of minority in this context.
The plea has sought to declare section 2(c) of the NCM Act 1992 "void" and "inoperative" for being "arbitrary", "unreasonable" and "offending".
The definition of "minority", according to Article 29-30 of the Constitution, has left leakages in the hands of the State, which shall be misused and are being misused for political benefits, the petition said, adding that the minority status be granted to Hindus in states where the number of the community members has decreased.
The plea has sought the minority status for Hindus in six states and two Union territories, where the number of the community members has fallen according to Census 2011.
The petition has stated that according to the 2011 Census, 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).
"Their minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily to the majority population because neither the Centre nor the state governments have notified Hindus as a 'minority' under the National Commission for Minorities Act. Therefore, Hindus are being deprived of their basic rights," the plea has said.
It has pointed out that Christians are in majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland and there is a significant Christian population in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, but they are treated as a minority community.
Likewise, Sikhs are in majority in Punjab and there is a significant Sikh population in Delhi, Chandigarh and Haryana, but they are treated as a minority community, it said.
Muslims are a majority in Lakshadweep (96.20 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (68.30 per cent) and there is a significant representation of the community in Assam (34.20 per cent), West Bengal (27.5 per cent), Kerala (26.60 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (19.30 per cent) and Bihar (18 per cent).
However, they are enjoying the "minority" status and communities, which are real minorities, are not getting their legitimate share, jeopardising their basic rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the petition has said.