Report of the advisory committee on the subject of certain political safeguards for minorities11 May 1949
This Committee was appointed to consider the question of whether separate electorates should be introduced for minority communities other than Scheduled Castes in the legislature.
The Committee was constituted of the Chairman Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and four other members- Hon’ble Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Hon’ble Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Shri. K.M Munshi, and Hon’ble Dr. B.R Ambedkar.
It was understood by the members that reserving seats for religious communities would lead to a degree of separatism among the general population which is to that extent contrary to the principles of a secular democratic State.
REPORT OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON THE SUBJECT OF CERTAIN POLITICAL SAFEGUARDS FOR MINORITIES
New Delhi, the 11th May, 1949
The Hon’ble SARDAR VALLABHBHAI PATEL,
CHAIRMAN, ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON
MINORITIES, FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS, ETC.
CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIA.
The Advisory Committee on Minorities, Fundamental Rights, etc. in their report dated the 8th of August 1947, had recommended certain political safeguards for Minorities. These were accepted by the Constituent Assembly during the August 1947 session and have been embodied in Part XTV of the Draft Constitution. According to these recommendations, all elections to the Central and Provincial Legislatures were to be held on the basis of joint electorates with reservation of seats for certain specified minorities on their population basis. This reservation was to be for a period of ten years at the end of which the position was to be reconsidered. There was to be no weightage, but members of the minority communities for whom/seats were ‘reserved were to have the right to contest general seats. The communities for whom seats were to be reserved were Muslims, Scheduled Castes and Indian Christians, the latter only so far as the Central-Legislature and the Provincial Legislatures of Madras and Bombay are concerned.
2. I would recall to your mind at this stage that the Committee has observed in their report that minorities were “by no means unanimous to the necessity, in their own interests of statutory reservation of seats in the legislatures”. Nevertheless, the Committee had recommended reservation of seats “in order that” minorities may not feel apprehensive about the effect of a system of unrestricted joint electorates on the quantum of their representation in the legislature”.
3. When the above recommendations were being considered by the Assembly, events were taking place, following the partition of this country, which made it impossible to consider the question of minority rights in East Punjab, particularly in so far as the Sikhs were concerned. This question of East Punjab was accordingly postponed and also the question whether the right to contest unreserved seats should be given to minorities in West Bengal.
4. The Advisory Committee in their meeting held on the 24th February. 1948, appointed a special sub-Committee consisting of myself as Chairman and the—
Hon’ble Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,
Hon’ble Dr. Rajendra Prasad,
Shri K. M. Munshi, and the
Hon’ble Dr. B. R. Ambedkar,
as members to report on these minority problems affecting East Punjab and West Bengal. This special sub-committee met on the 23rd November 1948 and presented a report to the Advisory Committee. A copy of the report is attached as an Appendix.
5. This report came up for consideration before the Advisory Committee at their meeting held on the 30th December, 1948. Some members of the Committee felt that conditions having vastly changed since the Advisory Committee made their recommendations in 1947, it was no longer appropriate in the context of free India and of present conditions that there should be reservation of seats for Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, or any other religious minority. Although the abolition of separate electorates had removed much of the poison from the body politic, the reservation of seats for religious communities, it was felt, did lead to a certain degree of separatism and was to that extent contrary to ‘the conception of a secular democratic State. Dr. H. C. Mookerjee, Mr. Tajamu) Husain, Shri Lakshmi Kant Maitra and certain other members gave notices of resolutions seeking to recommend to the Constituent Assembly that there should be no reservation of seats in the Legislatures for any community in India. Shri V. I. Muniswami Pillai gave notice of an amendment to the said resolutions seeking to exclude the Scheduled Castes from the purview of the said resolutions. At that meeting I pointed out that if the members of a particular community genuinely felt that their interests were better served by the abolition of reserved seats, their views must naturally be given due weight and the matter allowed to be reopened. At the same time I was anxious that the representatives of the minorities on the Committee should have adequate time both to gauge public opinion among their people and to reflect fully on the amendments that had been proposed, so that a change, if, effected, would be one sought voluntarily by the minorities themselves had not imposed on them by; the majority community. Accordingly, the Committee adjourned without taking any decision and we met again on the 11th of May 1949. At this-meeting, the resolution of Dr. H. C. Mookerjee found wholehearted support’ of an over-whelming majority of the members of the Advisory Committee. It was recognised, however, that the peculiar position of the Scheduled Castes would make it necessary to give them reservation for a period oi ten years as originally decided. Accordingly, the Advisory Committee, with one dissenting voice, passed the said resolution as amended by Shri V. I. Muniswami Pillai in the following form: —
“That the system of reservation for minorities other than Scheduled Castes in Legislatures be abolished.”
It was further decided that nothing contained in the said resolution shall affect the recommendations made by the Northeast Frontier (Assam) Tribal and Excluded Areas Sub Committee and Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (other than Assam) Sub-Committee with regard to representation of tribals in the Legislatures. The Committee also decided that the resolution should not affect the special provision made for the representation of Anglo Indians in the legislature.
6. The Committee also accepted the unanimous proposal made by the representatives that the following classes in East Punjab, namely Huabis, Ramdasis, Kabirpanthis and Sikligars, who suffer the same fatalities as other members of the Scheduled Castes, should be included in the list of Scheduled Castes so that they would get the benefit of representation given to the Scheduled Castes. Subject to this change and to the above-mentioned resolution, the report of the special sub-committee appointed by the Advisory Committee was approved.
7. As a result of the above decisions, the resolutions seeking to do away with the rights of minorities to contest general seats in addition to reserved seats in Assam and West Bengal, of which notices had been given by some members of the Committee were withdrawn.
8. The Committee are fully alive to the fact that decisions once reached should not be changed lightly, Conditions have, however, vastly changed since August 1947 and the Committee are satisfied that the minorities themselves feel that in their own interests, no less than in the interest of the country as a whole, the statutory reservation of seats for religious minorities should be abolished. The Committee accordingly recommends that the provisions of Part XIV of the Draft Constitution should be amended in the light of the decisions now taken.