The Union Cabinet on Monday decided to accord minority status to Jains but the decision would be subject to the outcome of pending cases on the issue. While a proposal to this effect was put up to the Cabinet by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs some weeks ago, it assumed urgency after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi threw his weight behind the Jain community’s demand on Sunday.
If the court cases are settled in favour of the Jains, the community would become the sixth designated minority community of the country.
As per the Cabinet note, Jains would be included as a minority under Section 2(c) of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Act (NCM), 1992.
In 2005, the Supreme Court had disposed the appeal of minority-designation-for-Jains advocate Bal Patil — in the case that now goes by his name — on the ground that the judgment in the T.M.A. Pai case had said States would be the unit for considering demands of both linguistic and religious minority status.
A review petition filed by the Centre in this regard is still pending.
A contentious issue for long since a section of Jains is opposed to being declared a minority, the decks were cleared for inclusion of the community under the NCM Act after the Attorney General opined that this would be “neither illegal nor unconstitutional”.
Officials in the Ministry said no separate legislation was needed and the executive order for including Jains within the ambit of the NCM would suffice. The NCM had made out a case for designating Jains as a minority community way back in 2000.
This decision would allow the community to run their educational institutions as per the same rules that govern all minority institutions. As of now, Jains are regarded as minorities in some States, including Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Jains, according to the 2001 Census, make up 0.4 per cent of the country’s population. In the winter session of Parliament, Union Minister of Minority Affairs K. Rahman Khan had informed the Lok Sabha that the representations from several Jain organisations demanding national minority status for the community was “under active consideration”.