New Delhi: The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has told the Supreme Court that minorities have to be treated as the “weaker sections” in the country, where majority community is so “predominant”.
The NCM said despite the safeguards provided in the Constitution and the laws in force there persist amongst the minorities a feeling of inequality and discrimination.
“In a country like India where the majority community is predominant, the minorities have to be treated as the weaker sections within the meaning of Article 46,” the NCM said in an affidavit.
In 40-page affidavit, it stated that “numerically smaller or weaker classes are bound to be suppressed and overpowered by the dominant majority groups” if special provisions and schemes were not framed by the government.
The submission was made in an affidavit filed in response to a petition which said welfare schemes cannot be based on religion.
Article 46 states that “The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation”. The NCM also contended that it was founded with the objective to integrate minorities into the mainstream to improve their social and economic status.
It also clarified that it does not administer any scheme nor provides grants to any community and in fact it is the government that runs schemes for them.
Earlier, the Centre had told the top court that welfare schemes for religious minority communities are “legally valid” which aims to reduce the inequalities and does not violate the rights of members of Hindus or other communities.
“It is submitted that the schemes being implemented by the Ministry are to reduce the inequalities among the minority communities and to improve the level of education, participation in employment, skill and entrepreneurship development, reducing deficiencies in civic amenities or infrastructure.
“The schemes are not in contradiction to the principles of equality as enshrined in the Constitution. These schemes are legally valid as they are only enabling provisions so as to achieve inclusiveness and do not suffer from any infirmity. The support given to disadvantaged/ underprivileged children /candidates of minorities communities through these schemes cannot, therefore, be faulted with,” the affidavit had stated.
The Centre had said the welfare schemes are meant only for the economically weaker sections/underprivileged, children/candidates/women of the minority communities and not for everyone belonging to a minority community.
In addition, the scholarship scheme, coaching schemes, etc. have academic merit, as well as earmarking for girl students, it added.
The petition, filed by Neeraj Shankar Saxena and five others, had said the petitioners are being unconstitutionally deprived of benefits available to similarly situated members of religious minorities in violation of their fundamental right.
“The petitioners and other members of Hindu community are suffering because they have been born in majority community. The State cannot promote or give any benefit to any religious community whether minority or majority keeping in view the secular ethos embedded in the Constitution of India,” the petition said.
The petitioners contended that by giving such “undue advantage”, the Centre is treating the Muslim community above law and the Constitution since no such benefits are given to the institutions of Hindu community.
It has also sought the scrapping of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, as there is already a Backward Classes Commission to find out the conditions of the backward classes that need aid.