A PIL has been filed before the Meghalaya High Court seeking declaration of minorities at "State level", thus praying that Hindus and other indigenous religions like Niam Khasi, Niam Tynrai and Songsarek should be declared as religious minorities in the state.
The petition has been filed by a local Advocate Delina Khongdup, contending that despite the Christian community constituting about 75% population of Meghalaya, it enjoys the benefits of minority, at the strength of a notification dated October 23, 1993, issued by the Central government under Sec 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.
On the other hand, Hindus who constitute merely 11.53% population and other indigenous religions like Niam Khasi, Niam Tynrai and Songsarek, that consist of only 8.71% have been deprived of the benefit of any minority scheme.
The Petitioner has challenged the abovementioned notification, stating that the same is contrary to the law settled by the Supreme Court in TMA Pai Case, 2002 (8) SCC 481. It was held therein:
"Linguistic and religious minorities are covered by the expression 'minority' under Article 30 of the Constitution. Since reorganization of the States has been on linguistic lines, therefore, for the purpose of determining the minority, the unit will be State and not whole India. Thus, religious and linguistic minorities, who have been put on a par in Article 30, have to be considered state wise."
In this backdrop she has contended that minorities cannot be identified at the national level. Instead, they have to be recognized and notified state-wise.
"Notification of minority at the national level will be possible only when there will be no concept of states/union territories in a country, which is not a case in country like India, where people are always resident of the parts i.e the State/Union Territories," the plea states.
The argument is also backed by citing Article 29(1) of the Constitution which relates to protection of interest of minorities.
The provision stipulates that 'any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having distinct language script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same'.
The Petitioner has argued that the words "any part thereof" refer to a State or Union Territories and hence, for the purpose of consideration of minorities, it has to be looked at the part i.e. the state or union territories, wherein such citizens resides.
She has further contended that denial of minority rights to real minorities, and arbitrary unreasonable disbursement of minority benefits to majority, infringes upon the Fundamental right to prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth under Article 15(1) of the Constitution.
Further, it impairs the right to equality of opportunity in matters related to public employment under Article 16(1); freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion under Article 25(1).
It also erodes the obligation of the State 'to endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities' under Article 38 (2) of the Constitution.
Recently, BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay had moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction upon the Central Government to lay down guidelines for identification of minorities "at State level", in spirit of its verdict in the TMA Pai case.
As per latest update, the Top Court has dismissed the petition as withdrawn with liberty to approach the alternative Court.
Click Here To Download Petition