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Defining minorities of India

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    5th Apr, 2022

Context

Petition before the Supreme seeking the identification of Hindus as minority in states and union territories where their numbers are below other communities.

About

What argument is presented in the abovementioned petition?

  • The petition states that according to the numbers of 2011 census, the population of Hindus is less than 50% in the states and union territories of Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, J&K, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab.

What does the term ‘minority’ mean according to the Constitution of India?

  • 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.
  • Though the Constitution of India recognizes two types of minorities i.e. religious and linguistic.

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.)
    • Christians
    • Sikhs
    • Buddhists
    • Parsis
    • Jains

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.

What has been the opinion of the Supreme Court of India in earlier judgements?

  • The Supreme Court has held in the TMA Pai foundation case that the Hindus may be a majority community in India but as they are in minority in the state of Punjab, that are entitled to Constitutional benefits provided to minorities.
  • While deciding the above case, the Supreme Court referred DAV College vs State of Punjab and DAV College, Bhatinda vs State of Punjab.

What next?

The decision of Supreme Court of India in this petition is awaited. Verdict of the Honorable Court in the above matter will have great ramifications on the question of who are minorities in India.

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