Article 350-B of the Constitution of India provided for the office of the Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities, appointed by the President of India, to investigate all the matters related to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities. This Special Officer is designated as the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities. The Commissioner falls under the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs.
The term ‘Linguistic Minority‘ refers to a group of people whose mother tongue language is different from that of majority of people in the State or part of a State. Therefore, the linguistic minorities are determined on a state-wide basis.
Originally, the Indian Constitution did not contain any provision related to the Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities. In 1953, the States Reorganization Commission 1953, headed by a former judge of Supreme Court Justice Fazal Ali, made a recommendation in this regard. Accordingly, the 7th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1956 inserted a new Article 350-B in the Part XVII of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, the Special Officer for Linguistic Minorites was formed in 1957.
- Article 350-B of the Constitution contains the following provisions:
- There should be a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities to be appointed by the President of India.
- It would be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate & review all the matters regarding the rights and safeguards provided to the linguistic minorities under the Indian Constitution. He would report to the President upon those matters at such interval as President may direct.
- As the Commissioner comes under the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs, it submits the annual report or other reports to the President through the Ministry of Minorities Affairs. The President further places such report before both Houses of Parliament and also sends to the State governments concerned.
- However, the Constitution does not specify the tenure, qualification, salaries, allowances, service conditions, and removal procedure of the Special Officer for linguistic minorities.
The Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities has headquarters at Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) and three regional offices at Kolkata (West Bengal), Belgaum (Karnataka), and Chennai (Tamil Nadu).
The Commissioner at headquarters assists by Deputy Commissioner and an Assistant Commissioner. He maintains the liaison with the States/U.T.s government through the nodal officers appointed by them. Each regional office gets headed by an Assistant Commissioner.
Vision and Mission
The Vision of the Commissioner is to streamline and strengthen the implementation machinery and mechanism for the effective implementation of Constitution safeguards provided to the Linguistic Minorities, thereby ensuring the protection of the rights of speakers of the minority language so as to provide them equal opportunities for inclusive & integrated development.
The Mission of the Commissioner is to ensure that all the states and Union Territories effectively implement the safeguards provided for the linguistic minorities under the Constitution and nationally agreed schemes for providing them equal opportunities for inclusive development.
Role of the Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities
The Commissioner takes up all the matters related to the grievances arising out of non-implementation of the safeguards provided to linguistic minorities under the Constitution and Nationally Agreed Scheme, which come to its notice or are brought to its knowledge by the linguistic minority individuals, groups, organization or association at the highest political & administrative levels of the State governments / U.T. administration. It recommends the remedial measure thereof.
Objectives of the Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities
- To provide equal opportunities to the linguistic minorities for inclusive and integrated development.
- To spread awareness among the linguistic minorities about the safeguards provided to them.
- To ensure the effective implementation of the Constitutional safeguards and other safeguards provided to linguistic minorities, which are agreed to by the States/U.T.s.
- To handle the representations for redress of grievances relating to the safeguards for the linguistic minorities.
Functions of Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities
- It investigates all the cases related to the rights & safeguards provided to the linguistic minorities.
- It monitors the implementation of the safeguards through visits, seminars, conferences, meetings, questionnaires, review mechanisms, etc.
- It submits the reports to the President of India on the status of implementation of Constitutional and the nationally agreed safeguards for the linguistic minorities.