The National Commission for Minorities celebrated World Minorities Rights Day on 18th December 2020. The United Nations on 18th December, 1992 adopted the Statement on the individual’s Rights belonging to religious or Linguistic National or Ethnic Minorities.
- The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 in Section 2(c) of the Act defines a minority as “a community notified as such by the Central government”.
- In India, this applies to Muslim, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Parsis (Zoroastrian) and Jain religions.
- As per TMA Pai Foundation vs. State of Karnataka case (2002) in the Supreme Court, a minority, either 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.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS RELATED TO MINORITIES:
The term “Minority” is not defined in the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution recognises religious and linguistic minorities.
- Article 29: It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.
- However, the Supreme Court held that the scope of this article is not necessarily restricted to minorities only, as use of the word ‘section of citizens’ in the Article includes minorities as well as the majority.
- Article 30: All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29).
- Article 350-B: Originally, the Constitution of India did not make any provision with respect to the Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities. However, the 7th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1956 inserted Article 350-B in the Constitution.
- It provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India.
NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR MINORITIES
- In 1992, with the enactment of the NCM Act, 1992, NCM was formed.
- In 1993, the first Statutory National Commission was set up and five religious communities viz the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) were notified as minority communities.
- In 2014, Jains were also notified as a minority community.
- NCM consists of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and five members and all of them shall be from amongst the minority communities.
- Total of 7 persons to be nominated by the Central Government should be from amongst persons of eminence, ability and integrity.
Each Member holds office for a period of three years from the date of assumption of office.
- Evaluation of the progress of the development of minorities under the Union and States.
- Monitoring of the working of the safeguards for minorities provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the state legislatures.
- Example – National Commission for Minority Education Institution (NCMEI) Act, 2004: It gives the minority status to the educational institutions on the basis of six religious communities notified by the government.
- It ensures that the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme is implemented and the programmes for minority communities are actually functioning.
- Looking into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of minorities and taking up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
- It investigates matters of communal conflict and riots.