|Saturday, 28 August 2004|
Human rights and minorities - with special reference to India - Part 2
by James Massey
Next comes a very special fundamental right provided in Article 30 of the Indian Constitution to the religious and linguistic minorities. This is also a part of the 'separate domain' provided to the minorities and their members to protect their identity.
The text of this right reads as: "(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
(2) 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."
So this is the position of the Indian Constitution about the minority rights. But what is interesting to note is that the Indian Constitution does not define the word 'minority'.
The present definition on which the Indians are depending is given to them by the judiciary, according to which any community which is numerically less then 50 percent of the population will be considered as 'minority group'.
At the national level basing itself more or less upon the same definition, the government of India has declared five religious groups as national minorities which includes: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees. It is against the judiciary, which has spelled out the purpose of the rights of the minorities.
These are to enable the minority to conserve and preserve their identity, to bring up their children in a congenial atmosphere, to bring about equality by ensuring the preservation of their institutions and to guarantee them these needed protections (in relation to Article 30).
Here one more point that needs to be remembered is that the Constitution of India does not give minorities any special rights, because these are the same, which are enjoyed by the majority. Constitution offers only some safeguards to the rights of the minorities through article 29 and 30.
From the discussion, it becomes very clear that in India the minorities do enjoy all the fundamental rights and freedoms, which have been offered to the citizens of India in general as well as the special rights, which Indian Constitution provides for them as safeguards. But there have always been doubts about the effective enforcement and implementation of these rights of minorities.
Therefore there arose a need for a special body to look into this concern of the minorities and in response to this need in January 1978 the Government of India decided to set up an important body to be known as the "Minorities Commission."
Then during 1992 the Parliament enacted the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992, changing the name of the Commission to "National Commission for Minorities" (NCM) and giving it a statutory status.
The functions of the Commission along with its general functions included the following special functions: "(a) to evaluate the progress of the development of minorities under the Union and States;
(b) monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures;
(c) make recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments;
(d) look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the minorities and take up such matters with the appropriated authorities." The above Act of 1992 also gives the NCM special powers of a civil court in order to carry out the above functions.
Produced by Lake House