On Tuesday, the Supreme Court granted the Centre six more weeks to complete consultations with states regarding the request for minority status for Hindus in states whose numbers are below other ethnic groups.
State and Union Territories that have not yet submitted their views to the Centre have been asked to do so within four weeks of receiving the order from the bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka.
According to the latest affidavit informing the court of these consultations, the government has received comments from 14 states and union territories. It has reminded others to express their views as soon as possible.
One petition by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay challenged the constitutional validity of the National Minority Commission Act 1992, which gives the Centre the authority to notify minorities. Several petitions sought implementation of the Supreme Court’s landmark 2002 decision in the TMA Pai case. Accordingly, religious and linguistic minorities must be identified at the state level to qualify under Article 30 – which pertains to minorities’ rights to establish and administer educational institutions.
As Upadhyay pointed out on Tuesday, in addition to the Pai judgment, there was also a 2007 judgment by the Allahabad High Court in a case — The Committee of Management of Anjuman Madarsa Noorul Islam Dehra Kalan, Ghazipur, versus The State of Uttar Pradesh Through Secretary — In that letter, the Constituent Assembly categorized minorities into three categories, based on population & strength, that were non-dominant groups in India at the time of Partition of India, according to Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India. It consists of (i) having half a percent of the population and strength, (ii) having less than one-half of a percent of the population and strength, and (iii) having more than half of a percent of the population and strength. That will be the basis to determine minority”.
Thus, the HC held that “Muslims have become no longer a religious minority in India, and certainly in Uttar Pradesh, based on their population and strength,” Upadhyay added that the ruling remains unchallenged.
According to Upadhyay, the term “minority” has never been defined anywhere. As a result of the TMA Pai ruling, the Centre had no longer validated the October 23, 1993 notification, in which Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis were notified as ‘minority communities.
While the SC issued a notice to the Centre on August 28, 2020, the BJP-led Centre failed to reply until March this year, after it was pulled up and fined Rs 7,500.
Initially, the government sought to place the responsibility on the states. Still, after receiving criticism for this position, the Centre informed the court that it had the authority to send notifications to minorities. However, it pointed out that the matter would have far-reaching implications and requested time for consultations with “state governments and other interested parties”.
As of August 29, the Centre stated in an affidavit that it had discussions with eight states and two Union Territories and requested more time for further consultations with the stakeholders. In response to the request, the court granted it.