Minorities’ commission to seek constitutional status

• The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has decided to approach the government for granting it Constitutional status to protect the rights of minority communities more effectively.

• If granted such a status, the NCM will be able to act against errant officials who do not attend hearings, follow its order or are found guilty of dereliction of duty.

• Currently, the NCM has powers to summon officials, including chief secretaries and director generals of police, but has to rely on departments concerned to take action against them.

=> NCM constitutional status

• If granted constitutional status, the NCM can penalise or suspend an officer for two days or send him/her to jail.

• Earlier, the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment (2017-18), in its 53rd report noted that the NCM is “almost ineffective” in its current state to deal with cases of atrocities against minorities.

• The committee recommended constitutional status to the body “without any delay”.

=> Context

• Till now, only the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes enjoy constitutional status.

=> About National Commission for Minorities (NCM)

• The Union Government set up the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992.

• Six religious communities, viz; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Zoroastrians (Parsis) and Jains have been notified in Gazette of India as minority communities by the Union Government all over India.

• Original notification of 1993 was for Five religious communities Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Christians and Muslims.

• The NCM adheres to the United Nations Declaration of 18 December 1992 which states that “States shall protect the existence of the National or Ethnic, Cultural, Religious and Linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.”

• The Commission has the following functions:

(a) Evaluate the progress of the development of Minorities under the Union and States.

(b) Monitor the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.

(c) Look into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities.

(d) Conduct studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to the socio-economic and educational development of Minorities.

(e) Suggest appropriate measures in respect of any Minority to be undertaken by the Central Government or the State Governments.

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