Call for unified Human Right Commission
Polity & Governance
22nd Mar, 2022
Comment made by Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, calling for the termination of National Commission for Minority and transferring its powers and functions to National Human Rights Commission.
What is National Commission for Minorities?
- It is a statutory body established under the provisions of National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
- Composition: The NCM is supposed to have a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson, and 7 members, at least 5 of whom should be from minority communities.
- Key-functions: Functions of the Minority Commission are as follows:
- Evaluate the progress of the development of Minorities under the Union and States.
- Monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.
- Make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of Minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments.
- Look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
- Cause studies to be undertaken into problems arising out of any discrimination against Minorities and recommend measures for their removal.
- Conduct studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to socio-economic and educational development of Minorities.
- Suggest appropriate measures in respect of any Minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Governments.
- Make periodical or special reports to the Central Government on any matter pertaining to Minorities and in particular the difficulties confronted by them.
- Any other matter which may be referred to it by the Central Government.
Who is a ‘minority’ in India?
UN’s definition: The definition provided by United Nations is “Any group or community which is socially, political and economically non-dominant and inferior in population are minorities”.
- The Constitution of India mentioned the term ‘minority’ only on two occasions in Article 29 and in Article 30 but it nowhere defines the term.
Article 29 — Protection of interests of minorities
- Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.
- No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.
Article 30– Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions
- All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.
- Section 2(c) of National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 had granted minority status to five communities based on their national population
- Muslims (largest minority group in India forming 14% of the total population.)
Other important minority rights
- Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion race cast sex or place of birth.
- Article 17 Prohibits untouchability.
- Articles 25 to 30 preserve the right of minorities on grounds of religion.
- Article 25 provides the right to practice any religion.
- Article 26 allows religious institutions to be opened.
- Article 27 provides that no person shall be forced to pay any taxes which is not mandatory.
- Article 28 provides that there shall be no religious instruction to be followed in any particular educational institutions.
Why is the call for abolition of minority commission being made?
- Creating differences: Presence of such Commission cultivates an idea within certain groups that a community or some communities are different than the rest and hence special provisions or bodies are required for its or their protection.
- The abovementioned idea has the potential of sowing the seeds of separatism.
- Wastage of resources: The National Human Rights Commission is adequately empowered to look into the issues relating to infringement of rights of people in India and hence of any other organisation that focusses on the rights on just minorities leads to waste of both material and human resources.
- Political influence: National Minority Commission may become and in some instances has become place of where appointment for political appeasement are made.
Why existence of separate National Minorities Commission is necessary?
- Attentive protection of minorities: The Constitution of India guarantees Secularism and hence protection of Minorities has to be paid adequate attention.
- For effective functioning: National Human Rights Commission is already overburdened with its existing workload and therefore asking it to perform the duties of Minorities also would lead to compromise of the quality of work done by it and also severe backlog effecting many Indians.
- Lack of expertise with NHRC: The National Human Rights Commission may not possess the expertise required to tackle the issues impacting rights of Minorities that are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and other statutes of the country.
- For diversity in unity: Religious minorities add to the diversity of India and their unique characteristics have to be safeguarded if India has to maintain its image of being a plural civilisation. This can be done in better way with the National Commission for Minorities being in existence.