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Minor Deficiency - The Telegraph

Editorial ()
10 February 1997

Title : Minor Deficiency
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Telegraph
Date : February 10, 1997

History tends to show up inadequacies in social and political
blueprints. That the Indian Constitution has neglected to define
the term "minorities" while defending their right to establish and
administer educational institutions in Article 30 can only become a
problem in the present time. Issues concerning minority groups -
especially reservations and self determination - are today cause
for debate and agitation at every level of Indian social and
political life. The context in which the Supreme Court has been
forced to acknowledge this particular lacuna in the Constitution is
education. The problem is very clearly defined by the two practices
which urgently need modification in private minority professional
educational institutions. One is the question of reservations -
read quotas - in educational institutions run by minorities. The
other is the demand for capitation fees for admission in these
institutions. Both practices, legitimized by the specific aims and
needs of minorities run institutions, are sources of abuse and
corruption. It is of the utmost importance that the corrective
measures the Supreme Court has suggested are not delayed or blunted
because of uncertainty over the definition of minorities in Article

But the importance of the forthcoming ruling on the definition of
minorities by the proposed 11 member bench of the Supreme Court
should not be underrated. The Constitution talks generally of
religious and linguistic minorities. This has been traditionally
interpreted to mean any group less than 50 per cent of the majority
in a particular state, and not necessarily in the country as a
whole. In the context of education, the earlier court directive
regarding merit lists for quota seats has to seen in the
perspective of the possible backwardness of certain religious
minorities. With reference to linguistic minorities, the question
whether a majority linguistic group in one state comprises a
minority in another has to be answered. The definition will have
wider resonance. It should clarify the position of minority
linguistic groups who are also backward vis a vis their demands for
self determination. More important, the definition is likely to
seriously affect the question of reservations, perhaps even provide
it with a rational principle. In every way, it will help in
clarifying attitudes and determining future policies.

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