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Can govt grant minority status?

delhi Updated: Jun 11, 2008 23:54 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times
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The Delhi government might have exceeded its legislative competence by deciding on Tuesday to grant minority status to the Jain community.

For the Delhi Minorities Commission Act, 1999, clearly states, “Minority Community” for the purpose of this Act, means a Community notified as such by the Central Government as per provisions of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.”

It is because of this specific provision in the Delhi Minorities Commission Act, 1999, that many in government quarters feel the decision of the Delhi Cabinet to grant minority status to the Jain community was unimplementable.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Chairman Shamim Qureishi said, “The NCM Act has clearly classified Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists as minorities. There have been a number of representations to grant minority status to the Jain community but as far as I know till date the Government of India has not taken any decision on this issue.”

When contacted, Kamal Faruqui, chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission, said, “Under the Delhi Minorities Commission Act, 1999, a minority status can be accorded to a community only if it has been notified by the Central government as per provisions of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.”

Though Faruqui said the commission had received a number of representations from the Jain community, he refused to comment when asked if the commission had recommended to the Delhi government to grant minority status to any particular community or whether the Delhi Cabinet is empowered to accord minority status to any particular community.

When asked if the cabinet can accord minority status to any particular community, Rakesh Mehta, Delhi chief secretary, said, “There was a report of Delhi Minority Commission to grant minority status to the Jain community and the government went by the report.”

Mehta maintained that the Delhi government is well within its right to grant minority status to the Jain community based on the report. A Union home ministry official, however, rejected the claim, pointing that the state government could not have made any changes since the Capital did not have its own list of minorities.

Asked if the Delhi government is legally competent to accord minority status to any community, NCM chairman said, “I have not studied the legal aspects of it. I am out of Delhi right now. I will study the legal provisions and let you know.”

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