NCM is a statutory body established under the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992. It’s a forum for appeal, establish to safeguard the rights and interests of minority communities of India. NCM falls under the Ministry of Minority Affairs. Unlike the National Commission for SCs and National Commission for STs, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) does not have Constitutional backing.
On 12 January 1978, the Ministry of Home Affairs Resolution set up the Minorities Commission (MC) in India as a non-statutory body. But, Minorities Commission was detached from the Home Affairs Ministry in 1984 and placed under the newly formed Ministry of Welfare.
In 1988, the Ministry of Welfare Resolution was passed, which laid down that Linguistic Minorites do not come under the jurisdiction of the Minorities Commission.
In 1992, the Indian Parliament passed the National Commission for Minorites Act 1992, under which the Minorites Commission (MC) became a statutory body and was renamed as National Commission for Minorities (NCM).
In 1993, the first Statutory NCM was set up. Originally, the five religious minorities notified as minority communities were: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (Parsis). But, in 2014, Jains were also included as a minority community.
Definition of Minorities
Indian Constitution does not define the term “Minority‘. But, the Constitution refers to the minorities based on religion and language. The six religious communities, which have been notified as minority communities by the Indian government are- Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis (Zoroastrians), and Jains.
Composition of NCM
NCM is a multimember body consisting of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and other five members. All the members of NCM, including the chairperson, shall be from amongst the minority communities. The Central government nominated the members of NCM from amongst the persons of eminence, integrity, and ability.
The Chairperson and each member of NCM hold the office for a period of 3 years from the date of assumption of office. However, the Chairperson or any other member may resign by writing under his hand addressed to the Central government.
Functions of NCM
National Commission for Minorities performs the following functions:
- The Commission evaluates the development progress of minorities under the Union as well as States.
- It monitors the proper working of the safeguards for minorities provided in the Indian Constitution and laws enacted by the Union and State governments.
- It suggests appropriate measures in respect of any minority to be undertaken by the Union and State governments.
- NCM makes recommendations for effectively implementing the safeguards for the protection of the minority’s interests.
- The Commission looks into specific complaints related to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the minorities. It also takes up such matters with the appropriate authority.
- It gets studied the problem arising out of any discrimination against minorities and recommends measures for their removal.
- It conducts studies, research, and analysis on the socio-economic and educational development of minorities.
- The Commission makes periodic or special reports to the Central government on any matter pertaining to the minorities, especially their difficulties.
- It takes up any other matter, which may be referred to it by the Central government.
Constitutional Provisions related to Minorities
Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination against citizens based on religion, caste, race, sex, or place of birth.
Article 16 (1) provides the equality of opportunity for all citizens in employment or appointment to any office under the State. Article 16 (2) laid down that no citizen can be discriminated against or ineligible for any employment or appointment to office under the State on the ground of religion, caste, race, sex, descent, or place of birth.
Article 25 (1) of the Constitution provided the People’s freedom of conscience and the right of the free profession, practice, and propagation of religion – subject to public order, morality, and other Fundamental Rights.
Article 26 of the Constitution provided that every religious denomination or any of its sections shall have – the right to establish & maintain institutions for religious & charitable purposes, the right to manage its own affairs in matters related to religion, and the right to own and acquire immovable & movable property and administer such property per law.
Article 28 provided freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in educational institutions wholly maintained, recognized, or aided by the State.
Article 29 laid that no citizen can be denied admission into any educational institution maintained or aided by the State on grounds only of religion, race, caste, or language. Article 29 grants protection to religious minorities and linguistic minorities.
Article 30 of the Constitution provided for the Rights to religious or linguistic minorities to establish and administer the educational institutions of their choice.
The 7th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1956 inserted Article 350-B in the Indian Constitution. Article 350-B provided for a special officer for Linguistic Minorities, appointed by the President, to investigate the matters related to linguistic minorities.