CIC, govt at odds over sensitive minority report

Subodh Ghildiyal, TNN 5 September 2009

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission and the minority affairs ministry are at loggerheads over the Ranganath Mishra Commission reportwhich has recommended that SC status be extended to Muslims and Christians.

The minority affairs ministry (MoMA), which has kept the report "secret" for two years, is peeved over a CIC order that it be given to an interested person, threatening a confrontation.

Sources said an unwilling MoMA may move the Delhi High Court against the full-bench directive of CIC.

While UPA's sensitivity over the report by Justice Mishra, who headed the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, appears strange, there is a growing belief that it is aimed to keep the controversial demand of `reservation for minorities' out of public debate.

This when minority affairs minister Salman Khursheed has said that quota on religious ground was not admissible under the Constitution. The government also seems against SC status for dalit converts.

Given the nature of NCRLM's recommendations, it is feared that making the report public could bring pressure on the government. A decision is not easy given its repercussions on the dalit population as well as the implications it will have on 50% ceiling on reservations.

The NCRLM had suggested that dalit status, presently limited to Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs, be extended to Muslims and Christians. It recommended that the clause in Constitution (SCs) Order of 1950 which links SC status to religion be dropped.

Besides giving SC status to converts, NCRLM also recommended that minorities be given reservation in jobs, education and government schemes.

The NCRLM report is seen as politically combustible. UPA has chosen to steer clear of it ever since it was submitted. Its stock response to demands that the report be made public has been that it was being examined.

Though the plea for not giving the report under RTI has been that it is still to be tabled in Parliament, it is seen as an excuse. In fact, sources said, the ministry has not even taken a decision if the report was to be tabled in Parliament.

The drama over the report reached a climax when MoMA refused to give its copy to National Commission for SCs. The Centre had sought the Buta Singh-headed panel's opinion on whether SC status could be given to Muslims and Christians and the latter wanted to study NCRLM's recommendations to firm up its view.

If there is an explanation, sources said it is the Centre's keenness to avoid a sensitive quota issue after UPA's experience with myriad quota demands in its last regime.


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