The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea filed by advocate and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking declaration of Hindus as a minority group in eight states and Union Territories, Bar and Bench reported. The public interest litigation had sought that minorities be identified based on their population in a state.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, said that the court has never held that religious minority status must be decided in accordance with state boundaries. “Religion must be construed as pan-India, not on political boundaries of states,” Bobde said.
The court also dismissed the petitioner’s request to ask the Centre to issue guidelines for identification of minorities in states. “Who doesn’t know who is Hindu, who is Muslim?” the bench asked. “You need guidelines to tell you who is Hindu, who is Muslim etc?”
The plea had sought a direction to the Centre to define the term “minority” and lay down guidelines for identification, to ensure that only those groups that are socially, economically and politically non-dominant and numerically inferior may enjoy rights and protections guaranteed under Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution. Upadhyay thus wanted the Supreme Court to strike down Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, which states that “minority” means a community notified as such by the Centre.
The petitioner had also prayed for the quashing of a notification issued by the Congress-led central government in 1993 by which Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians were notified as minorities.
According to the 2011 Census, Hindus are in a minority in Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab. The Supreme Court had last year granted Upadhyay permission to make a representation before the National Commission for Minorities. Upadhyay had subsequently argued before the commission that Hindus be declared a minority in these eight states or Union Territories.
However, in July this year, the commission informed the top court that it lacks the jurisdiction to declare Hindus as minorities in states where they are not in the majority. The commission’s response followed an examination by a sub-committee it appointed in 2017 to study the matter.