Kochi July 31, 2021: While observing that the financially well off condition of a few people belonging to minority communities is not an indicator that the entire community is socially and economically advanced, the Kerala High Court has dismissed a plea to reassess the minority status of Muslims and Christians in Kerala.
A Division Bench of Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly observed that merely because some individuals in a community can afford luxurious living conditions, it would not stand in the way of the National Commission for Minorities ascertaining the minority status of the communities as such.
At the same time, the High Court also made it clear that the power to re-determine minority status is not vested with the Central Government. Instead, the Central Government is given power only to refer any matter to the National Commission for Minorities under the Act, 1992.
The decision came while answering a plea filed by Citizens Association for Democracy, Equality, Tranquility, and Secularism claiming that the minority status of Muslims and Christians in Kerala needs to be re-determined since they are no longer socially or educationally backward.
It was alleged by the petitioner that giving benefit to the Christian and Muslim communities in financial, occupational, professional and educational fields would be a serious jolt to the secular structure of constitutional democracy and the same may lead to multi-nationalism.
It was further contended that in Kerala specifically, Muslims and Christians are not socially and educationally backward. Rather, over the years, they have passed Hindus in terms of education and socio-economic background.
According to the petitioner, neither the Constitution nor any other enactments have defined the term ‘minority’.
They urged that the Government of India had introduced an enactment i.e., National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 by making inclusive list of minorities without even defining ‘minority’ in the said Act.
The Division Bench, however, turned down the argument stating that the minority status is given by the Commission after taking into account various factual inputs and making due enquiries in accordance with the statutory requirements.
The High Court also clarified that merely because the term ‘minority’ is not defined under the Constitution of India, that would not take away the fundamental rights and guarantees conferred on the minorities.