Bill for giving constitutional status to NCM likely to lapse

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New Delhi, Aug 24 (UNI) The move for giving constitutional status to the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) is as good as dead, as the sensitivities invloved in defining the minorties state wise, as directed by the Supreme Court, has put the Ministry concerned in a fix.

In view of the coming elections, the Ministry of Minority Affairs does not want to go in for a redefinition, a move which is being fiercely opposed by minorities, sources told UNI.

The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Bill to grant Constitutional status to the Commission for Minorities had been introduced in Parliament in 2004, and referred to a Standing Committee.

Later, the Supreme Court, in its 2005 judgement in Bal Patil case, said minorities were to be defined in relation to their population in a state.

Following the judgement, the Standing Commitee told the Ministry that it has to make changes in the Bill in line with the apex court ruling.

The government had, in the last budget session, given notice for moving an amendment in Article 340 over and above the Constitution(103rd Amendment) Bill to redefine minorities as per the apex court decision. However, it could not do so, as Parliament was adjourned sine die before the amendment could be moved.

So if the government now wants to push through the Bill, it has to redefine minorities, a proposal that is being strongly opposed by Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and other minorities alike.

Leaders of the minority communiies and experts opposing the move argue that a state-specific definition of minorities would result in distortions in minority rights.

Christians in many North-eastern states and Sikhs in Punjab will be declared majority groups and consequently deprived of constitutionally-sanctioned minority rights.

It would result in many other anomalies like Christian students becoming ineligible for admission in minority educational institutions in other states as they would not have a domicile minority status there.

In view of all these problems, Minister A R Antulay had assured that there would be no change in the definition of religious minorities.

Now if the Bill for giving constitutional status to the NCM is to be passed, it has to be amended to give a definition of minorities in line with the Supreme Court decision, and if government does not want to do this to avoid any further controversy, and sleeps over, the Bill in the coming Monsoon Session, which is expected to be the last session of the current Lok Sabha, the Bill would lapse.

UNI NAZ SBC UCS1134

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