CommissionsGeneral Studies II

National Commission for Minorities (NCM)

The Ministry of Home Affairs established the National Minorities Commission of India in a resolution on January 12, 1978. It mentioned that:

“despite the safeguards provided in the Constitution and the laws in force, there persists among the Minorities a feeling of inequality and discrimination. In order to preserve secular traditions and to promote National Integration, the Government of India attaches the highest importance to the enforcement of the safeguards provided for the Minorities in the Constitution”.


  • In 1978, setting up of the Minorities Commission was envisaged in the Ministry of Home Affairs Resolution.
  • In 1984, the Minorities Commission was detached from the Ministry of Home Affairs and placed under the newly created Ministry of Welfare, which excluded linguistic minorities from the Commission’s jurisdiction in 1988.
  • In 1992, with the enactment of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992, the Minorities Commission became a statutory body and was renamed as the NCM.
  • In 1993, the first Statutory National Commission was set up and five religious communities viz the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) were notified as minority communities.
  • In 2014, Jains were also notified as a minority community.



  1. Currently, the commission works under the Ministry of Minorities.
  2. Linguistic Minorities do not come under the National Commission for Minorities’ Jurisdiction since the Ministry of Welfare Resolution 1988 was passed.


National Commission for Minorities Act 1992

Under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 the government formed the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) which consist of Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and five Members.

The five Members including the Chairperson shall be from amongst the minority communities.

Definition of Minority

The act defines a minority as “a community notified as such by the Central government.”

Government of India has declared six religions namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Parsis and Jain (included in 2014) as religious minorities in India.

Together they constitute 20.22 per cent of India’s population.


Which minority communities are governed by NCM?

The six religious communities notified as minority communities in India:

  1. Muslims
  2. Christians
  3. Sikhs
  4. Buddhists
  5. Zoroastrians/Parsis
  6. Jains (Notified as a minority on 27th June 2014.)


The important facts about the above-mentioned minority communities of India are listed below:

  1. The combined population of the six minority groups is around 19.30 percent of the total population of India.
  2. Out of six minority communities, Muslim is the largest one representing 14.2 percent of the population with 17.22 crores citizens belonging to the Muslim religion. (As per Census 2011.)
  3. The population figures of the remaining communities in descending order is given below:

  • Christians – 2.3 percent population (2.78 crores people)
  • Sikhs – 1.7 percent population (2.08 crores people)
  • Buddhists – 0.7 percent of the population (8.4 million people)
  • Jains – 0.4 percent of the population (4.5 million people)
  • Parsis – Around 57000 people (Not included in the census 2011) 


Composition of NCM | National Minorities Commission

It has seven members:

  1. A chairperson
  2. A vice-chairperson
  3. 5 members     

Term of Members of NCM

Each member of the commission holds the office for three years from the date of assumption of the office.

The points to remember about the composition of NCM:

  1. Central government nominates members.
  2. The members of the National Commission for Minorities are nominated from amongst the persons of eminence, integrity and ability.
  3. As of November 2020, the National Minorities Commission’s Chairman seat is vacant.
  4. Shri Atif Rasheed is the vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.     


The first Minorities Commission

  1. The first chairperson of the Minority Commission was Justice Mohd. Sardar Ali Khan.
  2. The first viceman of the Minority Commission was Shri B.S. Ramoowalia.

Note: The first five commissions were non-statutory bodies.

  • The first statutory commission for minorities:

  1. The first chairman of the National Commission for Minorities was Justice Mohd. Sardar Ali Khan.
  2. The first vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities was Shri B.S. Ramoowalia.


  • Evaluation of the progress of the development of minorities under the Union and States.
  • Monitoring of the working of the safeguards for minorities provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the state legislatures.
  • Ensures that the Prime Minister’s 15-Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities is implemented and the programmes for minority communities are actually functioning.
  • Making recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of minorities by the central or state governments.
  • Looking into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of minorities and taking up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
  • Investigates matters of communal conflict and riots.
    • For example, the 2011 Bharatpur communal riots, as well as the 2012 Bodo-Muslim clashes in Assam, were investigated by the commission and their findings were submitted to the government.
  • Observes the Minorities Rights Day every year on 18th December which marks the adoption of the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” by the United Nations in 1992.


What are its powers?

The Commission has the following powers:

a)      Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath.

b)      Requiring the discovery and production of any document.

c)       Receiving evidence on affidavit.

d)      Requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.

e)      Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents.


Role of NCM

  • The commission monitors the working of the safeguards provided in the Constitution and in laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.
  • It also makes recommendations for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection of the interests of minorities by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • Evaluation of the progress of the development of minorities under the Union and States.
  • Looking into specific complaints regarding deprivation of rights and safeguards of minorities and taking up such matters with the appropriate authorities.
  • Undertaking research and study into the problems arising out of any discrimination against minorities and recommending measures for their removal.
  • Making special reports to the central government or any matter pertaining to minorities particularly the difficulties faced by them.
  • Any other matter which may be referred to it by the Central Government.
  • To mark the adoption of the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” by the United Nations in 1992, it observes the Minorities Rights Day every year on 18th December.

Constitutional provisions for minorities

Constitutional provisions related to minorities can be seen in Fundamental Rights (FR), Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), and Fundamental Duties (FD).

Fundamental Rights:

  • ARTICLE 14: people’s right to ‘equality before the law’ and ‘equal protection of the laws’
  • ARTICLE 15: prohibition of discrimination against citizens on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
  • ARTICLE 16: citizens’ right to ‘equality of opportunity’ in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State – and prohibition in this regard of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth;
  • ARTICLE 25: people’s freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion – subject to public order, morality and other Fundamental Rights;
  • ARTICLE 26: the right of ‘every religious denomination or any section thereof – subject to public order, morality and health – to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes, ‘manage its own affairs in matters of religion’, and own and acquire movable immovable property and administer it ‘in accordance with law’
  • ARTICLE 27: the prohibition against compelling any person to pay taxes for promotion of any particular religion’
  • ARTICLE 28: people’s ‘freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in educational institutions’ wholly maintained, recognized or aided by the State.
  • ARTICLE 29:It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.It grants protection to both religious minorities as well as linguistic minorities.

  • However, the Supreme Court held that the scope of this article is not necessarily restricted to minorities only, as use of the word ‘section of citizens’ in the Article includes minorities as well as the majority.
  • ARTICLE 30:All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
    • The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29).

Directive Principles of State Policy

DPSPs under Part IV includes the following provisions having significant implications for the Minorities: –

  • the obligation of the State ‘to endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities’ amongst individuals and groups of people residing in different areas or engaged in different vocations; Article 38 (2)
  • the obligation of State ‘to promote with special care’ the educational and economic interests of ‘the weaker sections of the people’ [Article 46]

Fundamental Duties

Article 51A:

  • citizens’ duty to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India ‘transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; and
  • citizens’ duty to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.’


National Commission for Minority Education Institution (NCMEI) Act, 2004:

It gives the minority status to the educational institutions on the basis of six religious communities notified by the government.

The term “minority” is not defined in the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution recognises religious and linguistic minorities.


Issues faced by the NCM

In a book titled Minorities Commission 1978-2015: Minor Role in Major Affairs authored by former NCM chairman Tahir Mahmood, NCM is referred to as a toothless tiger, white elephant, Sarkari puppet. It has been referred to as “National Commission for Tokenism” too.

  1. No constitutional status: NCM does not have a constitutional status (it is a statutory body) which if bestowed upon it would give NCM autonomy and clout it needs to carry out its functions effectively.
  2. Absence of any constitutional power: It lacks the constitutional power to conduct independent enquiries or investigations in cases of the transgression of minorities’ rights, and especially in cases of communal violence, render the Commission legally incapacitated to fulfil its duty. This limitation has also been mentioned in a recommendation in the Commission’s 2007-08, 2008-09, and 2010-11 annual reports of the Commission.
  3. Toothless tiger: It hasn’t been provided with any “teeth” in terms of their legal capacity to carry out their Constitutional mandate. The decision of the Commission can be overturned by the district and high courts.
  4. No reports tabled: Section 13 of the NCM Act mandates that the annual report, “together with the memorandum of action taken on the recommendations contained therein’’, as well as the reasons for non-acceptance of the recommendations be tabled before Parliament annually. Sources said these reports have not been tabled in Parliament since 2010. Further, its recommendations are routinely rejected or simply filed away and forgotten.
  5. Partisan representation: There has been a shift in the kind of members appointed to the body. While past appointments included former chief justices, civil servants, academicians etc, the recent appointees were mostly “social activists” with links to the ruling party.
  6. Capacity related challenges: These include human resource deficiency as is the case now. The Commission is unable to effectively fulfil its mandate when the key positions of Commission members remain vacant. For example, the Commission mandated to conduct hearing is unable to process the numerous cases it receives.
  7. Underutilization of technology:  there is no real-time communication of schedules and appointments for hearings with the complainants which results in wastage of time and money.
  8. Only a few State minority commissions: A major recommendation of the Annual Conference of State Minorities Commissions (2008) was “that the State Governments should also set up State Minorities Commissions on similar lines (as that of the NCM).” However, only 16 states have set up such commissions. These too remain understaffed and mostly dysfunctional due to lack of capacity in human resource as well as in the absence of a regular monitoring mechanism of the State Commissions’ workings.
  9. Pressure on NCM: with ineffective State Finance Commissions, the pressure is borne by the NCM which further reduced its efficiency.
  10. Inadequate powers to State Minority Commissions: State Minority Commissions are not given adequate powers to implement, monitor, and review developmental programs and welfare schemes under the Prime Minister’s 15 Point Program for Minorities.
  11. Lack of research: Only a small proportion of the allocated budget of the Commission is spent in research activities even when conducting “studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to the socio-economic and educational development of minorities” is among the primary mandates of NCM.

Measures to make NCM more effective

  1. To reduce pendency of cases at the organizational level, the Commission should set certain baseline targets related to the pendency rates.
  2. At regular intervals, conducting a staffing needs assessment may be a useful solution to address the problem of vacant positions at the leadership level.
  3. NCM should develop a Stakeholder Satisfaction Survey for parties to anonymously provide feedback regarding how their appeal was processed, irrespective of the decision made.
  4. Technological upgrades including investment in more sophisticated information management systems could help reduce the pendency rates of cases in the Commission such as e-hearing.
  5. The strengthening of the State Commissions and setting up new state-level commissions, where these do not yet exist, can help in reducing the pendency rates and increasing hearings’ effectiveness of the Commission.
  6. NCM could fulfil its duties assigned in its mandate if the greater legal and constitutional authority is extended to the Commission. The Commission could be more effective if it has greater authority to conduct independent enquiries in cases of the transgression of rights of the minorities


To hold true to our commitment to the idea of unity in diversity, and ensure compliance to the constitutional articles viz, Article 15 and 16, Article 25 (1), 26 and 28, Article 29, Article 30, there is a need to give teeth to this organisation.

As we witness the rise of populist-majoritarian movements which tend to render minority rights ignored and suppressed, the National Minorities Commission (NCM) as an institution has the potential to serve as the protector and a beacon of minority rights in India.

Sachar Committee Report

On March 9, 2005 the then Prime Minister issued a Notification for the constitution of a High Level Committee to prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India. Recommendations contained in the Report of the High Level Committee on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India headed by Justice Rajindar Sachar (Retd.):

  1. Need for Transparency, Monitoring and Data Availability – Create a National Data Bank (NDB) where all relevant data for various socio-religious categories are maintained.
  2. Enhancing the Legal Basis for Providing Equal Opportunities Set up an Equal Opportunity Commission to look into grievances of deprived groups like minorities.
  3. Shared Spaces: Need to Enhance Diversity: The idea of providing certain incentives to a ‘diversity index’ should be explored.
  4. Education: a process of evaluating the content of the school text books needs to be initiated to purge them of explicit and implicit content that may impart inappropriate social values, especially religious intolerance. Need to ensure that all children in the age group 0-14 have access to free and high quality education.
  5. High quality Government schools should be set up in all areas of Muslim concentration. Exclusive schools for girls should be set up, particularly for the 9-12 standards. This would facilitate higher participation of Muslim girls in school education. In co-education schools more women teachers need to be appointed.
  6. Provide primary education in Urdu in areas where Urdu speaking population is concentrated.
  7. Mechanisms to link madarsas with higher secondary school board.
  8. Recognise degrees from madarsas for eligibility in Defence Services, Civil Services and Banking examinations.
  9. Increase employment share of Muslims, particularly where there is great deal of public dealing.
  10. Enhancing Participation in Governance: appropriate state level laws can be enacted to ensure minority representation in local bodies
  11. Create a nomination procedure to increase participation of minorities in public bodies.
  12. Establish a delimitation procedure that does not reserve constituencies with high minority population for SCs.
  13. Enhancing Access to Credit and Government Programmes: Provide financial and other support to initiatives built around occupations where Muslims are concentrated and that have growth potential.
  14. Improve participation and share of minorities, particularly Muslims, in business of regular commercial banks
  15. Improving Employment Opportunities and Conditions

The Committee suggested that policies should “sharply focus on inclusive development and ‘mainstreaming’ of the Community while respecting diversity.”


Schemes under Ministry of minority

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