The Union government will initiate a “wide consultation” with states and other stakeholders to examine a plea as to whether Hindus can be granted minority status in states where their numbers are less than those of other communities, an affidavit filed by the Centre in the Supreme Court said on Monday, indicating a withdrawal of its previous stand on the issue.
To obviate “unintended complications for the country in future”, the government said, it is submitting a fresh affidavit in supersession of its previous affidavit filed on March 27 when the Centre sought dismissal of a bunch of writ petitions and defended the 1992 National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act and the 2004 National Commission for Minorities Educational Institutions (NCMEI) Act.
Under the NCM Act, the central government has notified only six communities, namely Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains, as minorities as the national level. The NCMEI Act entitles the six communities notified under the NCM Act to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
At that time, the Centre put the onus on states and Union territories (UTs) to take a call on whether or not to grant minority status to Hindus where they are numerically less. It also said that both the Centre and states have the legislative competence to enact laws on the protection of minorities.
“After filing of the aforesaid affidavit, the central government undertook a detailed intraministerial discussion based upon which it is decided to file the present affidavit in supersession of the earlier affidavit…the question involved in this writ petition has far-reaching ramifications throughout the country and, therefore, any stand taken without detailed deliberations with the stakeholders may result in an unintended complication for the country,” stated the affidavit, filed through the Union ministry of home affairs.
It underlined that although the power is vested with the central government to notify minorities, the stand to be formulated by the Centre with regard to issues raised in the batch of petitions on the issue will be finalised after having a wide consultation with the state governments and other stakeholders.
“This will ensure that the central government is able to place considered view before this Hon’ble Court taking into consideration several sociological and other aspects, obviating any unintended complications in future with regard to such a vital issue,” maintained the affidavit.