The government is set to introduce a bill to create the Equal Opportunities Commission for the welfare of minorities in the Winter session of Parliament and the new entity’s ambit has been widened to cover the private sector.
This means that socially and economically backward members of minority religions will be able to go to the Commission in complaint if they feel they have been deprived of a job, or of a seat in an educational institution, on the grounds of their belief, and this will include private sector companies and colleges.
The law ministry gave its blessing to the potentially controversial proposal by the minority affairs ministry late last week, clearing the way for the Congress-led UPA government to fulfil a promise made in its 2009 election manifesto a few months before it heads into another general election. The Winter session of parliament starts on December 5.
The new move could be a vote-winner but may alienate those who favour a broader approach. “The intention was to have an EOC that would cater to all deprived sections, not minorities alone,” said Justice Rajinder Sachar, whose 2006 report on social and economic backwardness of minorities formed the basis for the entire government effort.
The government’s legal arm had earlier raised two major objections to the proposal to create the EOC.
It felt that setting up of the EOC may violate the Constitution’s basic features since the latter does not recognise religious backwardness. And it worried that the proposed body may impact the functioning of National commissions for SCs, STs and OBCs.
In an attempt to allay these fears, minority affairs minister K Rahman Khan wrote to law minister Kapil Sibal on October 30, pointing out that the commission was being set up strictly in accordance with the recommendations of a Group of Ministers (GoM) set up by the Prime Minister for the purpose.
The differences were sorted out in a meeting between the two ministers and the law ministry then gave its go-ahead last week. “The government is committed to set-up the commission and everything has been sorted out in accordance with the GoM recommendations,” Khan told HT.
The proposed bill, seeks to allow “deprived groups among the minorities to seek access to opportunities, entitlements or rights available under any law, schemes and programmes of central or state governments, public or private enterprises for employment and education at all levels and any other field to be decided by the government.”
Acording to the draft bill, the Commission will have the powers to conduct a probe against the institution or officer against whom a complaint is received and give directions to make amends against discriminatory practices.
The Commission would be empowered to impose a fine of upto `1 lakh on the institution found guilty of not complying with its orders.