Home Know Your Rights Rights of Minority Communities in India: Constitutional Safeguards

Rights of Minority Communities in India: Constitutional Safeguards

The status of minorities in India has been given to both religious and linguistic minorities. Some of the religious communities include Christians, Parsis, Jains, Buddistists, Sikhs, and Muslims.  In a diverse country like India where there are 800 languages, 8 major religions and 60 socio-cultural groups and regions, it becomes the duty of the State to secure and protect their interests. Fundamental rights are guaranteed by the Constitution to citizens to create a sense of equality and unity and in a nation and feeling of brotherhood.

The drafters of the Constitution of India has incorporated some special provisions in the fundamental rights itself to accommodate the vast majority of socio-cultural heterogeneous groups and promote an egalitarian society. Articles 29 and 30 endowed minorities with cultural and educational rights. Rights secured under these articles is not a privilege but a protection to the religious and linguistic minorities to attain equality with those belonging to the majority. The objective behind Articles 29 and 30, is the recognition and preservation of the different types of people with diverse languages and different beliefs, which constitutes the essence of secularism in India.[1]

In the celebrated case of T.M.A. Pai Foundation vs. State of Karnataka[2], the Supreme Court held that Articles 29 and 30 do not more than seeking to preserve the differences that exist, and at the same time, unite the people to form one strong nation.

Rights of minority to conserve language, script or culture [Article 29(1)]

Clause(1) of Article 29 provides that any citizen or group of citizens residing in any part or territory of India having a distinct language script or culture shall have the right to conserve the same. One of the essential conditions that need to be fulfilled for the exercise of this right is that uniqueness or discreteness in language, script or culture. A script or culture which is common and followed by the majority of the population cannot be protected under this article.

 ‘Right to conserve’ means the right to preserve or right to maintain one’s own language, script, or culture, also includes the right to work for one’s own language, script or culture. In the case of D.A.V. College, Jalandhar vs. State of Punjab[3], the Supreme Court held that the setting up of Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar to promote, inter alia, the studies and research in Punjabi language and literature and to undertake measures for the development of Punjabi language and culture did not infringe Article 29(1).

The promotion of the majority language did not mean stifling of the minority language or script. To do so would be to trespass on the rights of those sections of the citizens which have a distinct language and script and which they have a right to conserve through their own educational institutions.[4]

Right of a citizen to admission to educational institutions [Article 29(2)]

According to Article 29(2), no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the state or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.[5] This right is available to every citizen of India whether belonging to minority or majority, to take admission in institutions maintained or aided by State.

In-State of Bombay vs. Bombay Education Society [6] the State Government issued an order banning admission to all those, whose language was not English into schools having English as a medium of instruction. The order of the Government was held to be violative of Article 29(2).

Rights of minority to establish and administer educational institutions [Article 30]

According to Clause(1) of Article 30, all linguistic and religious minorities have a right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. However, these rights of minority are only on the basis of religion or language-based. It is to ensure equality within minorities and not intended to place them in a more advantageous position.

In St. Stephen’s College vs. University of Delhi[7], the Supreme Court held that minority under Article 30(1) would necessarily mean those who formed a distinct and identifiable group of citizens of India.

According to Article 30 clause (2), the State shall not discriminate in granting aid to educational institutions managed by any minority community whether linguistic or religious. The aim of this right is to secure the rights under clause(1) and grant of aid is not held as a constitutional imperative.

Right to establish educational institution means to bring into existence any institutions of their choice which effectively serves the need the minority community. No prior permission is required for the establishment of an educational institution.

The right to administer educational institutions means the right to manage and conduct affairs of the institution. In St. Xavier’s College vs. the State of Gujarat,[8] the court emphasized the fact that the right to administer includes the right to choose principal or headmaster and teachers of the educational institution. The right to take disciplinary action against the employees forms a substantial part of the right to administer educational institutions. The right to impart religious instructions and choose the medium of instruction in minority educational institutions is an inherent part of rights under Article 30 of the constitution.  

National Commission for Minority Educational Institution Act, 2005

The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act 2004 was enacted to constitute a commission charged with the responsibilities of advising the central government or any state government on any matter relating to the education of minorities that may be referred to it, looking into specific complaints regarding deprivation or violation of rights of minority to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, deciding on any dispute relating to affiliation to a scheduled university and reporting its findings to the central government for implementation.

The act was extensively amended in 2006 (Act 18 of 2006) inter alia empowering the commission to inquire suo-moto or on a petition presented to it by any minority educational institution (or any persons on its behalf) into complaints regarding deprivation or violation of rights of minority to establish and administer an educational institution of its choice and any dispute relating to affiliation to a university and report its finding to the appropriate government for its implementation. The act also provides that if any dispute arises between a minority educational institution and a university, relating to its affiliation to such university, the decision of the Commission thereon shall be final.[9]

Also read about Child Rights in India

This article is written by Sakshi Jain and edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.


[1] NARENDRA KUMAR, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF INDIA 472 – 473 (10th ed. 2018). 

[2] AIR 2003 SC 355.

[3] AIR 1971 SC 1737.

[4] NARENDRA KUMAR, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF INDIA 472 – 473 (10th ed. 2018). 

[5] NARENDRA KUMAR, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF INDIA 473 – 474 (10th ed. 2018). 

[6] AIR 1954 SC 561

[7] AIR 1992 SC 1630

[8] AIR 1974 SC 1389

[9] Constitutional and Legislative Provisions Regarding the Minorities, SABRANG (April 1,2010), 

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