Rahul Gandhi’s demand and the cabinet’s decision to declare Jains a national minority is a welcome but overdue decision. It rectifies an inexplicable omission since a community based on a unique faith comprising less than 0.5 per cent of the population was nationally not recognised as a religious minority!
Apart from the general apathy of successive governments and the absence of a persistent demand by the Jain community, the main reason was the 2005 decision of the apex court in Bal Patil vs Union of India.
A strong advocate of a minority status for the community, Patil had petitioned the Supreme Court to notify Jains as a minority under the National Minorities Commission Act, 1992. The apex court, disagreeing with the petitioner’s contention, ought to have rejected the petition on the established legal principle that a direction cannot be issued to an authority to issue a notification where the statute gives a discretion in that regard.
Instead, the three-member bench did an exegesis as to how Jains were a part of Hinduism, how Jains...