• The Centre’s position in the Supreme Court remained uncertain on Tuesday on whether its 1993 notification identifying Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis as minority communities needed reconsideration in light of a view by the National Commission for Minorities that religious and linguistic minority communities ought to be identified State-wise.
  • Instead, it sought time to gather the views of four States and two Union Territories which have remained mum on the question.
  • Currently, 24 States and Union Territories have given a mixed response, some leaving the task of identifying minorities to the Centre or preferring status quo, while others, including BJP-ruled Assam and Uttarakhand, and States such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, maintaining that minorities should be identified at the State level.
  • Appearing before a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Attorney-General R. Venkataramani said the six who have remained silent are Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Telangana.
  • “I would presume that they have nothing to say then? Frankly, Jammu & Kashmir is administered by you at the moment. So is Lakshadweep… Is it that your own administrations are not responding,” Justice Kaul asked.
  • The Attorney-General said Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Telangana were major States and their responses were important. “We give a last opportunity to the Centre to get their responses, failing which we will presume that they have nothing to say,” the court observed in its order, listing the case on March 21.
  • The hearing began with senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, for petitioner-advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, drawing the court’s attention to a status report filed by the Centre on January 10.
  • “The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) agrees with the definition of ‘minority’ not on a nationwide basis but State-wise…
  • In spite of this, the 1993 notification continues… The government may either have to withdraw it or come up with a fresh notification,” Mr. Vaidyanathan submitted.
  • The NCM’s input, dating back to October 2020 and reproduced in the Centre’s status report in January 2023, said “the State has to be regarded as the unit for determining linguistic and religious minority”.
  • The commission had referred to the court’s 11-judge Bench judgment in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation case of 2002 and Bal Patil verdict of 2005, in which the top court had clarified that “henceforth the unit for determining status of linguistic and religious minorities would be ‘State’”.
  • The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, a statutory body notified by the Centre, too had referred to the T.M.A. Pai Foundation judgment’s conclusion that “a minority, whether linguistic or religious, is determinable only by reference to the demography of the State and not by taking into consideration the population of the country as a whole”.
  • The Ministry of Education had also pointed to the logic presented by the 11-judge Bench decision.
  • The Home Ministry said it had “no specific input or comments to offer in this matter”. The Law Ministry remained non-committal, saying the comments of the State governments were needed and it had “nothing more to add at this stage”.


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