Parliamentary panel seeks constitutional status for National Commission of Minorities

By Prarthana Mitra

A parliamentary panel on Thursday said the National Commission of Minorities (NCM) is “almost ineffective” in dealing with cases of atrocities against minorities. The panel has also recommended granting the NCM constitutional status.

Constitutional status needed to ensure efficacy

The Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment (2017-2018) presented its report to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Thursday, March 8. The committee observed that the NCM is “almost ineffective” in its current state and structure since it does not enjoy constitutional status.

The committee, chaired by BJP MP Ramesh Bais, recommended the NCM be granted constitutional status without any delay to give it more agency, authority, and legitimacy so that it can protect minorities from ruthless persecution and social stigmatisation better. However, despite its strong recommendations, the panel did not cite any particular incident. The committee also noted that the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, which are allowed to take recourse to constitutional measures, fare better in handling cases of alleged crimes against members of these communities. It has also placed requisition and requested assistance from the Centre to set up a dedicated investigative cell, such as the one available to the NCSC.

Lackadaisical or deliberate stalling?

Despite being a secular democracy that thrives on the co-existence of various sects and religions, India has also had a problematic history of systemic oppression of the minorities, with a disturbing tendency to turn a blind eye to such communally motivated crimes. The NCM’s lack of constitutional status reveals a gaping hole in the national legislature. According to the Press Trust of India, a bill granting constitutional status to the NCM, prepared in 2013, is still pending approval from the Centre.

According to The Times of India, the panel was insistent on knowing why the NCM does not take note or action in case of violent crimes against minorities in India. In response, the Ministry of Minority Affairs assured the committee that it would look into the matter with renewed enthusiasm and present a resolution to that end in the next meeting, which would then be sent to the Cabinet Secretary.

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