States can declare religious or linguistic communities as a minority: Centre to SC
The Centre said that the Karnataka government has notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani, and Gujarati languages as minority languages within the state.
NEW DELHI: The Centre has in a counter-affidavit filed before the Supreme Court has submitted that states can also declare a religious or linguistic community as a ‘minority community’ within the said state and the allegations that Hindus, Jews, Baha’i followers cannot establish educational institutions of their choice is not correct. Centre has filed the response to a plea seeking directions to lay down guidelines for the identification of minorities at the state level, in order to ensure that only those religious & linguistic groups, which are socially economically, politically non-dominant and numerically inferior, can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
"It is submitted that matters such as declaring the followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who are minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice in the said States and laying down guidelines for identification of minority at state level may be considered by the concerned State Governments", the affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs said.
It also said that the Karnataka government has notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani, and Gujarati languages as minority languages within the state.
It was submitted that the Central government on October 29, 2004, resolved to constitute a National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities and the terms of reference of the Commission were to suggest criteria for identification of socially and economically backward sections among religious and linguistic minorities to recommend measures for socially and economically backward sections along with religious and linguistic minorities including reservation in education and government employment and to suggest constitutional, legal, and administrative modalities required for the implementation of its recommendation. The affidavit said that the Parliament has enacted the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, under Article 246 of the Constitution read with Entry 20 in the Concurrent List in 7th Schedule.
"The Ministry of Minority Affairs was set up so as to improve socio-economic conditions of the minorities through affirmative action and inclusive development so that every citizen has equal opportunity to participate actively in building a vibrant nation," it added.
At the same time, the Central government has maintained that states alone can't be given the power to frame laws on the subject of minorities as this would go against the constitutional scheme and would go against several decisions of the apex court.
"Parliament under Article 246 of the Constitution, read with Entry 20 in Concurrent List in Schedule Seven, has enacted the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. If the view that the States alone has the power to enact law on the subject of a minority is accepted, then in such a case, Parliament will be denuded of its power to enact law on the said subject and this would be contrary to the constitutional scheme,” Centre has stated.
The petition had sought directions and declaration that Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act 2004, is arbitrary, irrational and offends Articles 14, 15, 21, 29 and 30 of the Constitution hence void.
The petition had also sought directions for a declaration that followers of Judaism, Bahaism & Hinduism, who are minorities in Laddakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur, can establish & administer educational institutions of their choice in the spirit of the TMA Pai Ruling.