New Delhi: Supreme Court on Monday said that a religious or linguistic community which is a minority in a particular State can inherently claim protection and the right to administer and run its own educational institutions under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution.
“Every person in this country can be a minority. I can be a minority outside my State, Maharashtra. Similarly, a Kannada speaking person may be in minority in States other than Karnataka… Every person in this country can answer this description,” a report published in The Hindu quoted Justice U.U. Lalit, as saying.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Devkinandan Thakur, who complained that ‘followers of Judaism, Bahaism and Hinduism, who are the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur cannot establish and administer educational institutions of their choice because of non-identification of ‘minority’ at State level, thus jeopardising their basic rights guaranteed under Articles 29 and 30.’
“But take the case of linguistic minorities from Kerala to Kashmir. In Punjab. Hindi-speaking people are in a minority. Likewise people who speak all other languages except Hindi are a minority in Delhi. But there is no notification issued per se that these people are a minority in Delhi… Kannada or Tamil speakers are a minority in Maharashtra… Is there a notification?” Justice S. Ravindra Bhat asked.
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the petitioner, said the primary concern was the “general perception” that since Hindus were a majority, they cannot claim minority status in States where they were “definitely a minority”.
Adv Datar pointed out that Hindus were a mere 1% in Ladakh, 2.75% in Mizoram, 2.77% in Lakshadweep, 4% in Kashmir, 8.74% in Nagaland, 11.52% in Meghalaya, 29% in Arunachal Pradesh, 38.49% in Punjab and 41.29% in Manipur.
A bench of Justices UU Lalit, Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia orally observed, “If there is a concrete case that Hindus are denied minority statusin Mizoram or Kashmir, we can consider…… Unless and until we get a concrete situation, we can’t deal with this”
“In Kashmir or Kerala, Hindus may be a minority… but they may have claimed minority status and might be running schools.. How do we know? We cannot go ahead on the basis of challenges made in thin air. A cause of action before us would really arise if someone has been denied his or her right in any State… Where is the injury or untold misery caused to this petitioner [Thakur]?” The Hindu quoted Justice Lalit.
The PIL filed by Devknandan Thaukur challenges the 1993 notification of the Central Government declaring Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsi and Jain as minorities at the national level. However, the judgments say minorities have to notified qua the particular state, he added.
The bench asked Datar whether a notification granting minority status was necessary for a community to exercise rights available to religious and linguistic minorities.
Datar challenged Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act 1992, which gave “unbridled power” to the Centre to notify minorities in defiance of the Supreme Court’s 11-judge Bench judgment in T.M.A Pai case that linguistic and religious minorities should be identified at the State level and not the national level. The court listed the case after two weeks.
Articles 29 and 30:
Article 29 – Protection of Interests of Minorities
This article is intended to protect the interests of minority groups.
Article 29(1): This provides any section of the citizens residing in India having a distinct culture, language, or script, the right to conserve their culture, language and script.
Article 29(2): The State shall not deny admission into educational institutes maintained by it or those that receive aid from it to any person based only on race, religion, caste, language, or any of them.
Article 30 – Right of Minorities to Establish and Administer Educational Institutions
This right is given to minorities to form and govern their own educational institutions. Article 30 is also called the “Charter of Education Rights”.
Article 30(1): All religious and linguistic minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. (Read about Minority Protection in India in the linked article.) Article 30(2): The State shall not, when 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.
(With inputs from ‘The Hindu’)