The Supreme Court on Friday sought the assistance of Attorney General KK Venugopal in dealing with a plea seeking to define minority communities on the basis of state-wise population data instead of national data.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose took note of the submissions of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi that the law which allows declaration of minority community on the basis of national data was illegal.
Listing the hearing of the case after four weeks, the bench asked lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who has filed a PIL on the issue, to supply a copy of the petition to the office of the attorney general and listed it for hearing.
The plea has challenged the validity of the Centre’s 26-year-old notification declaring five communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis — as minorities.
It has sought to declare as unconstitutional section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minority (NCM) Act, 1992, under which the notification was issued on October 23, 1993.
Upadhyay has sought direction for laying down guidelines to define the term ‘minority’, based on the state-wise population of a community instead of the national average.
He has contended in the plea that the notification was violative of fundamental rights to health, education, shelter and livelihood.
The advocate said he was filing the public interest litigation (PIL) on the issue as he did not receive any response on his representation from the Home Ministry, the Ministry of Law and Justice and the National Commission for Minorities.
The petitioner has said Hindus, who are a majority community as per national data, are a minority in several north-eastern states and in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the Hindu community is deprived of benefits which are available to the minority communities in these states, the plea has said, adding that National Commission of Minorities should reconsider the definition of minority in this context.
The definition of “minority” as per Article 29-30 has left leakages in the hands of the state, which shall be misused and are being misused for political benefits, the petition said, adding that the minority status is granted to Hindus in states where the number of the community has decreased.
The plea has sought minority status for Hindus in seven states and one Union Territory where the number of the community has fallen, according to the Census 2011.
It has stated that as per 2011 Census, Hindus are minority in eight states — Lakshadweep (2.5 per cent), Mizoram (2.75 per cent), Nagaland (8.75 per cent), Meghalaya (11.53 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (28.44 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (29 per cent), Manipur (31.39 per cent) and Punjab (38.40 per cent).
It has stated that Christians are in majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland and there is significant population in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal but they are treated as minority.
Likewise, Sikhs are a majority in Punjab and there is a significant population in Delhi, Chandigarh and Haryana but they are treated as a minority, it has said.
Muslims are a majority in Lakshadweep (96.20 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (68.30 per cent) and there is a significant population of the community in Assam (34.20 pc), West Bengal (27.5 pc), Kerala (26.60 pc), Uttar Pradesh (19.30 pc) and Bihar (18 pc).
However, they are enjoying ‘minority’ status, and communities, which are real minorities, are not getting their legitimate share, jeopardizing their basic rights guaranteed under the Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the petition has said.