Niam Khasi of Meghalaya
Niam Khasi of Meghalaya|National Herald
Litigation News

Pleas in High Courts of Gauhati and Meghalaya seek minority status for Hindus in North East India

The petitioners contend that minority communities should be defined based on State-wise demographics. States in North East India are mostly populated by Christians, it is highlighted.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

Two PILs have been filed in the High Courts of Gauhati and Meghalaya urging for the declaration of Hindus in Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya as minorities in terms of the Supreme Court's ruling in TMA Pai and Ors. v. State of Karnataka. (Delina Khongdup v. Union of India and Pankaj Deka v. Union of India)

While Delina Khongdup's plea has been filed in the Meghalaya High Court, Pankaj Deka has moved the Gauhati High Court for relief.

The petitioners in both these cases challenge the Notification dated October 23, 1993, that declared Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, and Jains as minorities.

The States of the North East are populated mostly by Christians, it is highlighted.

The pleas argue that minorities should be calculated as per their populations in their States and not based on national numbers. The calculation based on national figures leads to the minorities in a State being deprived of benefits, it is contended.

It is stated that taxpayer money is wasted since majority communities in these States are enjoying the benefits earmarked for the communities deemed minorities.

“in the event if minority is not assessed State wise in terms of the population of every State, actual minority who are being governed unit wise will be deprived of the benefits of minority scheme and for state like Nagaland and Mizoram, the benefits of scheme for minority will be enjoyed in continuity by Christian majority forever.”
The pleas state

In granting benefits to the minorities in these regions, an interpretation of the Constitution was necessary, the pleas state.

While Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution use the term minority in their headings, they do not define the term. The Articles describe "minorities" as a 'section of citizens', which the plea avers is to be construed broadly, relying on Constitutional Assembly Debates.

Further, the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities defines a minority as persons numerically inferior to the rest of the population in a State, in a non-dominant position, differing in certain respects from the rest of the State.

In view of the landmark TMA Pai ruling which declared linguistic minorities to be determined on State lines, the petitions assert that religious minorities need to be calculated on such territorial lines as well.

Emphasizing that Christians and Muslims constitute a sizeable chunk of the population in certain areas of the country, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Assam, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya, Kerala etc., the actual minorities in these states (Hindus and indigenous groups) are being denied their rightful claims. In this regard, it is stated,

"...the legitimate share of Hindus and other indigenous religions of Nagaland and Mizoram are being siphoned off arbitrarily to unqualified sections of the population, because of non-identification and non- notification of minorities at the State-level."
plea in Pankaj Deka v. Union of India

The petitions describe the Centre's act of non-identification of minorities in accordance with their numbers in States as an abdication of statutory powers.

The petitioners have challenged the prevailing 1993 notification on specified minorities as discriminatory, infringing upon the rights to equal opportunity in public employment, freedom of conscience and right to profess, propagate, and practise religion.

Additionally, the State has failed in its obligation to eliminate differences in status, facilities, and opportunities, it is submitted.

On these terms, the pleas have been preferred in public interest to promote the interests of Hindus and indigenous religious groups in the State.

One plea has been filed by Delina Khongdup and the second by one Pankaj Deka through his lawyer Advocate H Talukdar.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news