A petition seeking transfer of all pending petitions challenging the validity of Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 has been preferred in the Supreme Court.
Filed on behalf of Ashwani Kumar Upadhyay, the petition states that the petitioner is compelled to approach the top court in order to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and conflicting views to interpretation of Articles 29 & 30 of the Constitution.
"Petitioner is compelled to approach this Hon'ble Court as more PILs may be filed in other High Courts to challenge the validity of S.2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 and subsequent Notification on Minority Community dated 23.10.1993. Therefore, in order to avoid multiplicity of litigations and conflicting views on the interpretation of Articles 29-30, this Hon'ble Court may be pleased to transfer these PILs in this Hon'ble Court and decide them", the plea states in its opening averments.
Plea highlights that by using the "the unbridled power under Section 2(c) of the Act", Centre declared Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians as 'minority', but not declared the followers of Bahaism, who are merely 0.1% and Judaism, who are just 0.2% as a religious minority. This, the petitioner states is "arbitrary unjustified and abdication of the statutory powers of the Central Government".
Contending that Article 29(1) of the Constitution is assumed to relate to minorities but its scope is not confined, it is stated that it is available to 'any section of citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having distinct language script or culture'.
"Therefore, for the purpose of notifying a community as 'minority', Centre is empowered to consider claim of a particular community for being notified as such under Section 2(c) and cannot shirk its statutory responsibility."- Excerpt of Plea
While touching upon various states and their minority and majority statistics, the plea states that minority rights of Hindus are being siphoned off in Ladakh, Mizoram, Lakshdweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab and Manipur by not granting them minority status under section 2(c) of the Act.
"Muslims are majority in Lakshdweep (96.58%) and Kashmir (96%) & there is significant population in Ladakh (44%), Assam (34.20%), West Bengal (27.5%), Kerala (26.60%), UP (19.30%) and Bihar (18%) and they are enjoying 'minority' benefits but followers of Bahaism (0.1%) and Judaism (0.2%) who are real minorities, are not getting their legitimate protection because of non-identification minorities at State level, thereby jeopardizing their basic rights," states Upadhyay.
In this context, it is contended that denial of minority rights to real minorities and arbitrary and irrational disbursement of minority benefits to majority, infringes upon fundamental rights."Therefore, S.2(c) and subsequent Notification dated 23.10.1993 is manifestly arbitrary, irrational and contrary to the Articles 14, 15, 21, 29, 30," plea states.
"After TMA Pai Case, the legal position stands clarified that henceforth the unit for determining status of both linguistic and religious minorities would be 'State'," Upadhyay says.
The plea further contends that Minority Welfare Schemes are not being appropriately used in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, J&K, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, UP & West Bengal in light of the legitimate share of the minorities being "siphoned off arbitrarily to unqualified sections of the population, because of non-identification and non-notification of minorities at State level".
Apropos this, the petitioner states that similar PILs pending in three high courts are required to be withdrawn and be transferred from High Courts to the top court so that all grounds-contentions can be decided by common judgment in order to ensure uniformity in directions. "Moreover, the Judgment by this Hon'ble Court will be binding for all and also save precious time of the judicial system," it adds.
The petitioner, apart from the prayer of transfer also makes an alternative prayer of directions to the Home Ministry to identify and notify the religious and linguistic minorities at State level in spirit of Articles 29-30 of the Constitution of India and the Judgment of this Hon'ble Court in TMA Pai Case [(2002) 8 SCC 481, paras 76-81].