A petition challenging the Centre's power to notify a community as minority under the law was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The plea, filed by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay, has sought declaration of Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act as "inoperative" for being "arbitrary, unreasonable and in violation of the Constitution".
The provision gives the central government the right to declare a community minority allowing it to avail benefits of government schemes meant for its members.
The petition, filed through advocate R D Upadhyay and which may come up up for hearing next week, has challenged the Centre's notification dated October 23, 1993, which notified only five communities — Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis — as 'minority'.
It sought to declare states as the unit of determination when it comes to defining "minorities" and also demanded laying down of guidelines for their identification, to ensure that only those religious and linguistic groups, which are socially, economically and politically non-dominant and numerically inferior, may enjoy rights and protection guaranteed under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution.
"Only those religious and linguistic groups of Indian citizens, which are socially economically and politically non-dominant and numerically not more than 1 per cent of the total population of that respective state, may enjoy rights and protection guaranteed under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution," the petition said.
Article 29 deals with protection of interests of minorities whereas Article 30 deals with their rights to establish and administer educational institutions.
The petition said the benefits given to minorities in the name of Articles 29, 30, are similar to the benefits given to SC/STs under Articles 15, 16, which establishes that the government intends to manage favour than following the concept of "welfare state".
It said Muslims, who are a majority in Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir and have a significant population in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have been conferred the 'minority' status and the communities which are really fewer in number haven't been given legitimate share because of non-identification at the state level.
Similarly, Christians are a majority in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland and have a significant presence in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal but are treated as minority, the petition said.
Sikhs, who are the dominant community in Punjab and have a significant population in Delhi, Chandigarh and Haryana, are also considered minority, the plea said.
It also said that Hindus are a minority in eight states, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab but their "minority rights are being siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily to majority population because Central government has not notified them as minority under Section 2 (c) of the NCM Act".
"There has been no application of mind by the Central government in identifying the minority. The power endowed by Section 2(c) of the NCM Act is therefore entirely unbridled and gives untrammelled power to the Central government, hence it is manifestly arbitrary and offends Article 14 of the Constitution," the petition said.