The Narendra Modi government has told the Supreme Court that states with a small number of Hindus or other communities can declare them a minority community within their own borders, allowing them to establish and administer their own institutions.
It stated that states can declare a religious or linguistic group as a minority community within their borders, as Maharashtra did in the case of Jews in 2016. In 2017, Karnataka declared Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani, and Gujrati languages as minority languages.
"States, too, can certify institutions as minority institutions based on their own rules," it said.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs stated in an affidavit that the claim made by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay in a PIL that followers of Judaism, Bahaism, and Hinduism, who are minorities in Laddakh, Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Manipur, can't administer their institutions, is incorrect
"They can establish and administer educational institutions of their choice in the said State, and the concerned state governments may consider laying down guidelines for identifying minorities at the state level," it said.
At the same time, the Centre argued that giving states sole authority over minorities laws would be contrary to the constitutional scheme and would be in violation of several Supreme Court decisions.
"The National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, was enacted by Parliament under Article 246 of the Constitution, read with Entry 20 of the Concurrent List in Schedule Seven. If the view that the State alone has the power to enact legislation on the subject of minorities is accepted, Parliament will be stripped of its authority, which is contrary to the constitutional scheme "It was stated.
The Centre argued that the Supreme Court's decisions in the T M A Pai and Bal Patil cases did not limit or place a legal restriction on Parliament's and the central government's legislative and executive powers to declare a community a minority.
In his petition, Upadhyay requested that the Centre issue guidelines for identifying minorities at the state level, claiming that Hindus are in the minority in ten states and are unable to benefit from minority-specific schemes.
"India is a country with unique characteristics where religious and linguistic minorities are dispersed across the country and are not related to or restricted to a single State or Union Territory," it said, adding that since Parliament passed the 1992 law, the central government has the legal authority to declare a community to be a minority.