Constitutional and Legal Provisions Related to Minorities – UPSC Prelims

Legal Provisions:
  • The National Commission of Minority Act defines a minority as “a community notified as such by the Central government.”
  • The Government of India has declared six religions namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis (Zoroastrian) and Jain as religious minorities in India.
  • National Commission for Minority Education Institution (NCMEI) Act, 2004: It gives the minority status to the educational institutions on the basis of six religious communities notified by the government.
  • The term “minority” is not defined in the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution recognises religious and linguistic minorities.
Article 15 and 16:
  • Prohibition of discrimination against citizens on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Citizens’ right to ‘equality of opportunity’ in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State, and prohibition in this regard of any discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Article 25 (1), 26 and 28:
  • People’s freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practise and propagate religion.
  • Right of every religious denomination or any section to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, manage its own religious affairs, and own and acquire property and administer it.
  • People’s freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in educational institutions wholly maintained, recognized, or aided by the State.
Article 29:
  • It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.
  • It grants protection to both religious minorities as well as linguistic minorities.
  • However, the Supreme Court held that the scope of this article is not necessarily restricted to minorities only, as use of the word ‘section of citizens’ in the Article includes minorities as well as the majority.
Article 30:
  • All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  • The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29).
Article 350-B:
  • The 7th Constitutional (Amendment) Act 1956 inserted this article which provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India.
  • It would be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.
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