On Friday, the Supreme Court gave the Union government ‘the last opportunity’ to respond to a public interest petition that demands minorities be identified state-by-state and that Hindus be recognized as minorities in six states and two Union territories. After the Centre requested more time to file an affidavit, a bench of Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh, hearing the petition based on the 2002 Supreme Court judgment TMA Pai, gave the Centre four weeks to file its response after the Solicitor General sought more time to file an affidavit. Two weeks later, the court allowed a rejoinder, and the matter will be heard after seven weeks. Article 30 deals with minorities’ rights to establish and run educational institutions.
Ashwini Upadhyay, the petitioner, challenged the constitutional validity of Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, which declared only Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians to be minorities, claiming this has deprived groups like Hindus, Baha’is and Jews of their ‘legitimate rights’. According to the petition, Hindus are a minority in six states, including Mizoram (2.75%), Nagaland (8.75%), Meghalaya (11.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (29%) Manipur (31.39%), Punjab (38.10%) and Jammu and Kashmir (28.44%), and in the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir (2.5%).
‘Hindus are the real minorities in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur. But their minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily because neither the Centre nor states have notified them as minorities. Hindus are being deprived of their basic rights and protections guaranteed under Article 29-30,’ the petitioner, represented by senior Advocate C S Vaidyanathan, argued. The Supreme Court transferred similar cases against the National Commission for Minorities Act from high courts in Gauhati, Meghalaya, and Delhi to itself at the request of the petitioner.
Despite being the majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland, Christians are considered a minority in these three states. Furthermore, Christians are found in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal. The Sikh community is also considered to be a minority, despite being the majority in Punjab and constituting a significant part of the populations in Delhi, Chandigarh, and Haryana. According to the petitioner, Muslims, who are majorities in Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir and have substantial representations in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are also considered minorities.