Provisions for Minorities
- The Constitution gives citizens possessing a distinct language, script or culture the right to conserve the same.
- Children of linguistic minorities are to be given instructions through their mother tongue at the primary stage.
- No person can be denied admission to edu-cational institutions maintained by states or receiv-ing aid from states on grounds of religion, race, cast, language etc.
- All minorities based on religion or language have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
- Minorities can impart instructions to children of their community in their own language.
- No discrimination is made in matters of employment on grounds of race, religion or caste.
For the protection of minorities, a Minorities Commission was set up by the Janata Government in January 1979 which was given a statutory status under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. The Commission comprises seven members and isexpected to evaluate the working of various safeguards provided in the Constitution for protection of minorities. It can make recommendations for an effective implementation and enforcement of all the safeguards and laws. It undertakes review of the implementation of thepolicies formulated by the Union and State governments with regard to minorities. It looks into specific complaints regarding the deprivation of rights and safeguards of minorities, and conducts research and analysis on the question of avoidance of discrimination against the minorities. The Commission serves as a clearing house for information in respect to condition of minorities and makes periodical recommendations to the Government.
Provisions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
For the protection and promotion of interests of Scheduled Castes, Schduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes, the Constitution makes the following provisions:
- It requires the government to take special measures for the advancement of the interests of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
- Seats have been reserved for the members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes in public services and legislatures until 2000 A.D.
- The President appoints a Special Officer for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (designated Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Tribes) who investigates matters relating to the safeguards provided to these classes and reports on the working of these safeguards to the President.
- The Union government provides special grants-inaid to states for meeting the costs of welfare schemes for Scheduled Tribes and raising the level of administration in scheduled areas.
- The states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa are obliged to appoint a separate minister to look after the welfare of Scheduled Castes and backward classes.
- These states are expected to pay special attention to the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections to prevent their exploita-tion.
Provisions for Anglo-Indians
For the protection of the interests of the Anglo-Indiancommunity, the Constitution makes the following provisions:
- The Presidnt can nominate not more than two members of the Anglo-Indian community to the Lok Sabha if it does not get adequate representation in the normal course.
- For the first few years of the promulgation of the Constitution, special grants were provided for the benefit of members of the Anglo-Indian community and certain posts were reserved for them in railways, customs, and postal and telegraph services.
It may be noted that these provisions for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections are of a purely temporary nature, and shall cease to operate as soon as members of these sections shall attain parity with the rest of the population.
Hindi as Official Language and Use of English
The Constitution declared Hindi the official languageof India. However, it permitted the use of English for official purpose for a period of 15 years from the commencement of the Constitution. The Parliament was authorised to allow the use of English even beyond this period. In 1964, the Parliament passed the Official LanguageAct, 1964, which permitted the use of English as official language up to January 26, 1971. Again, through the Official Language (Amendment) Act, 1967, it was provided that the use of English would continue indefinitely.
Regional Languages : The Constitution also permitted certain regional languages to be used for intra-state official transactions. Initially, the Constitution recognised 14 regional languages which were included in the Eighth Schedule. These were Assamese, Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi,Gujarati, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Kashmiri, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Oriya. Subsequently, Sindhi was added to the list throughthe Twenty-first Constitutional Amendment of 1967. In 1992 three additional languages—Konkani, Manipuriand Nepali were added to the 8th schedule by the 71st Amendment. Thus at present 18 languages are included in the Eighth Schedule.
Ordinance Making Power of the President and the Parliamentary Safeguards
- The President has the power to legislate by ordinance at a time when it is not possible to have a Parliamentary enactment on the subject, immediately.
- The ambit of the ordinance making power of the President may relate to any subject in respect of which Parliament has the right to legislate and is subject to the same constitutional limitations as legislation by Parliament.
- This power is to be exercised by the President on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
- The ordinance must be laid before Parliament when it re-assembles, and shall automatically cease to have effect at the expiration of 6 weeks from the date of re-assembly unless disapproved earlier by Parliament.
- The ordinance-making power will be available to the President only when either of the two Houses of Parliament has been prorogued or is otherwise not in session, so that it is not possible to have a law enacted by Parliament.