Report of the Advisory Committee on the Subject of Minority Rights8 August 1947
The Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities, and Tribal and Excluded Areas was formed on 24 January 1947 to meet the requirements laid down by the Cabinet Mission Plan. Chaired by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, it included more than 50 members.
The Sub-Committee on Minorities was one of the five sub-committees appointed by it on 27 February 1947. Its recommendations on questions related to special protections for minorities were taken up by the Advisory Committee in this Report.
The Report was discussed by the Constituent Assembly on 27 and 28 August 1947, close on the heels of the bitter and violent partition of the country. In introducing the Report, Sardar Patel pointed out that the final product reflected a general consensus between the representatives of all communities, minority as well as majority.
The system of separate electorates was done away with unanimously in favour of joint electorates, with reservation in proportion to the population of the minorities in legislatures. However, later in May 1949, the Committee and the Assembly decided to do away with reservations in legislatures as well, except for Scheduled Castes and Tribes.
The Hon’ble Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
Chairman, Advisory Committee on Minorities,
Fundamental Rights, etc.
Constituent Assembly of India.
On behalf of the members of the Advisory Committee appointed by the Constituent Assembly on the 24th January 1947 and subsequently nominated by you, I have the honour to submit this report on minority rights. It should be treated as supplementary to the one forwarded to you with my letter No. CA/24/Com./47, dated the 23rd April 1947 and dealt with by the Assembly during the April session. That report dealt with justiciable fundamental rights; these rights, whether applicable to all citizens generally or to members of minority communities in particular offer a most valuable safeguard for minorities over a comprehensive field of social life. The present report deals with what may broadly be described as political safe- guards of minorities and covers the following points:
(i) Representation in joint versus separate electorates; and weightage.
(ii) Reservation of seats for minorities in Cabinets.
(iii) Reservation for minorities in the public services.
(iv) Administrative machinery to ensure protection of minority rights.
2. Our recommendations are based on exhaustive discussion both in the Sub-Committee on Minorities as well as in the main Advisory Committee. From the very nature of things, it was difficult to expect complete unanimity on all points. I have pleasure in informing you, however, that our recommendations, where they were not unanimous, were taken by very large majorities composed substantially of members belonging to minority com- munities themselves.
JOINT versus SEPARATE ELECTORATES AND WEIGHTAGE
3. The first question we tackled was that of separate electorates; we considered this as being of crucial importance both to the minorities them- selves and to the political life of the country as a whole. By an over- whelming majority, we came to the conclusion that the system of separate electorates must be abolished in the new Constitution. In our judgment, this system has in the past sharpened communal differences to a dangerous extent and has proved one of the main stumbling blocks to the development of a healthy national life. It seems specially necessary to avoid these dangers in the new political conditions that have developed in the country and from this point of view the arguments against separate electorates seem to us absolutely decisive.
4. We recommend accordingly that all elections to the Central and Provincial Legislatures should be held on the basis of joint electorates. 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, we recommend as a general rule that seats for the different recognized minorities shall be reserved in the various legislatures on the basis of their population. This reservation should be initially for a period of 10 years, the position to be reconsidered at the end of that period. We recommend also that the members of a minority community who have reserved seats shall have the right to contest unreserved seats as well. As a matter of general principle, we are opposed to weightage for any minority community.
5. For two reasons the application of the above principles to specific minorities was considered in detail by the committee. In the first place, it was known to us that minorities are by no means unanimous as to the necessity, in their own interests, of statutory reservation of seats in the legislatures. Secondly, the strict application of the above principles to a microscopic minority like the Anglo-Indians seemed to require very careful examination. We accordingly classified minorities into three groups- group ‘A’ consisting of those with a population of less than 1/2 per cent in the Indian Dominion excluding the States, group ‘B’ consisting of those with a population of more than 1/2 per cent but not exceeding 1 per cent and group ‘C’ consisting of minorities with a population exceeding 1 per cent. These three groups are as follows:
Group A.-Anglo-Indians, Parsees, and Plains tribesmen in Assam.
Group B.-Indian Christians and Sikhs.
Group C.-Muslims and Scheduled Castes.
6. Anglo-Indians: The population of the Anglo-Indian community excluding the States is just over a lakh, that is, 0.04 per cent. Mr. Anthony, on behalf of the Anglo-Indians, contended that the census figures were inaccurate but even admitting a larger figure than the one given in the census, this community is microscopic, and to deal with it on a strictly population basis would mean giving it no representation at all. The representatives of the Anglo-Indians on the committee asked originally that they should have the following representation in the Legislatures:
|House of the People||3|
|Central Provinces and Berar||1|
Subsequently they asked that they should be guaranteed two seats in the House of the People and one in each Province in which they have representation at present, that is, a total of 8 altogether. After very considerable discussion, in the course of which the representatives of the Anglo-Indian community gave full expression to their views, the committee unanimously accepted the following formula, namely, that there shall be no reservation of seats for the Anglo-Indians but the President of the Union and the Governors of the Provinces shall have power to nominate representatives of the Anglo-Indian community to the Lower House in the Centre and in the Provinces respectively if they fail to secure representation in the legislatures as a result of the general election. We wish to congratulate the representatives of the Anglo-Indian community on the committee for not pressing their proposals which would not merely have introduced the principle of special weightage which was turned down as a general proposition by an overwhelming majority but would also have encouraged other small mino- rities to ask for representation wholly out of proportion to their numbers. We feel sure that by the operation of the formula recommended by us Anglo-Indians will find themselves given adequate opportunity effectively to represent in the legislatures the special interests of their community.
7. Parsees: In the Minorities Sub-Committee, Sir Homi Mody had urged that in view of the importance of the Parsee community and the contribution it had been making to the political and economic advancement of the country Parsees should have adequate representation in the Central and Provincial Legislatures. The sub-committee were of opinion that this claim should be conceded. In view, however, of the opinion expressed to him by several members that an advanced community like the Parsees would be adequately represented in any event and did not need specific reservation, Sir Homi had asked for time to consider the matter.
When the issue came before the Advisory Committee, Sir Homi stated that though the committee had already accepted the Parsee community as a recognized minority entitled to special consideration on the same basis as other minorities in group A, he had decided to follow the traditions which the community had maintained in the past and to withdraw the claim for statutory reservation. He assumed that Parsees would remain on the list of recognized minorities and urged that if, during the period prescribed in the first instance for the special representation of the minorities it was found that the Parsee community had not secured proper representation, its claim would be reconsidered and adequate representation provided, if the separate representation of minorities continued to be a feature of the Constitution. The committee appreciated the stand taken by Sir Homi and agreed to his proposal.
8. Plains tribesmen in Assam: The case of these tribesmen will be taken up after the report of the Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas Sub- Committee is received.
9. Indian Christians: The representatives of the Indian Christians stated that, so far as their community was concerned, they did not desire to stand in the way of nation-building. They were willing to accept reservation proportionate to their population in the Central Legislature and in the Provincial Legislatures of Madras and Bombay. In the other Provinces, they would have the liberty of seeking election from the general seat. They were against any weightage being given to any community, but made it plain that if weightage was given to any minority in groups ‘B’ and ‘C. they would demand similar weightage. As weightage is not being con- ceded to any community, this means that the Indian Christians are prepared to throw in their lot with the general community subject only to the reservation of certain seats for them on the population basis in the Central Legislature and in Madras and Bombay.
10. Sikhs: In view of the uncertainty of the position of the Sikhs at present pending the award of the Boundary Commission in the Punjab, the committee decided that the whole question of the safeguards for the Sikh community should be held over for the present.
11. Group ‘C’ – Muslims and Scheduled Castes: The committee came to the conclusion that there are no adequate grounds for departing from the general formula in the case either of the Muslims or of the Scheduled Castes. Accordingly it is recommended that seats be reserved for these communities in proportion to their population and that these seats shall be contested through joint electorates.
12. A proposal was made in the committee that a member of the minority community contesting a reserved seat should poll a minimum number of votes of his own community before he is declared elected. It was also suggested that cumulative voting should be permitted. The committee was of the view that a combination of cumulative voting and a minimum per- centage of votes to be polled in a community would have all the evil effects of separate electorates and that neither of these proposals should be accepted.
REPRESENTATION OF MINORITIES IN CABINETS
13. Some members of committee proposed that there should be a provision prescribing that minorities shall have reserved for them seats in Cabinets in proportion to their population. The committee came unhesitatingly to the conclusion that a constitutional provision of this character would give rise to serious difficulties. At the same time, the committee felt that the Constitution should specifically draw the attention of the President of the Union and the Governors of Provinces to the desirability of including members of important minority communities in Cabinets as far as practicable. We recommend accordingly that a convention shall be provided in a Schedule to the Constitution on the lines of paragraph VII of the Instrument of Instructions issued to Governors under the Act of 1935 and reproduced below:
VII. In making appointments to his Council of Ministers, our Governor shall use bis best endeavours to select his Ministers in the following man- ner, that is to say, to appoint in consultation with the person who in his judgment is most likely to command a stable majority in the legislature those persons (including so far as practicable members of important mino- rity communities) who will best be in a position collectively to command the confidence of the legislature. In so acting, he shall bear constantly in mind the need for fostering a sense of joint responsibility among his Ministers.
REPRESENTATION IN SERVICES
14. A proposal was made to us that there should be a constitutional guarantee of representation in the public services of the minority communities in proportion to their population. We are not aware of any other constitution in which such a guarantee exists, and, on merits, we consider, as a general proposition that any such guarantee would be a dangerous innovation. At the same time, it is clear to us that consistently with the need of efficiency in administration, it is necessary for the State to pay due regard to the claims of minorities in making appointments to public services. We recommend, therefore, that, as in the case of appointments to Cabinets, there should be in some part of the Constitution or the Schedule an exhortation to the Central and Provincial Governments to keep in view the claims of all the minorities in making appointments to public services consistently with the efficiency of administration.
The Anglo-Indian members of our committee have represented to us that owing to the complete dependence of the economy of their community on their position in certain services and their existing educational facilities, their case require special treatment. We have appointed a sub-committee to investigate this question and to report to us.
15. The minorities’ representatives in the committee naturally attached importance to the provision of administrative machinery for ensuring that the guarantees and safeguards provided for the minorities both in the Constitution and by executive orders are in fact implemented in practice. After considerable discussion, we have come the conclusion that the best to arrangement would be for the Centre and for each of the Provinces to appoint a special Minority Officer whose duty will be to enquire into cases in which it is alleged that rights and safeguards have been infringed and to submit a report to the appropriate legislature.
16. We have felt bound to reject some of the proposals placed before us partly because, as in the case of reservation of seats in Cabinets, we felt that a rigid constitutional provision would have made parliamentary democracy unworkable and partly because, as in the case of the electoral arrangements, we considered it necessary to harmonize the special claims of minorities with the development of a healthy national life. We wish to make it clear, however, that our general approach to the whole problem of minorities is that the State should be so run that they should stop feeling oppressed by the mere fact that they are minorities and that, on the contrary. they should feel that they have as honourable a part to play in the national life as any other section of the community. In particular, we think it is a fundamental duty of the State to take special steps to bring up those minorities which are backward to the level of the general community. We recommend accordingly that a Statutory Commission should be set up to investigate into the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes, to study the difficulties under which they labour and to recommend to the Union or the unit Governments as the case may be, the steps that should be taken to eliminate their difficulties and, suggest the financial grants that should be given and the conditions that should be prescribed for such grants.
17. A summary of our recommendations is attached in the Appendix.