The Union government on 24 May 2017 appointed five members to fill the vacant seats in the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).
The NCM, which is responsible for protecting the interests of the minority communities, was left with no members after all its seven members appointed by the previous UPA-II government retired between September 2015 and March 2017.
The centre was facing a lot of criticism for not making any appointment to the commission up until now.
• Social activist Gayarul Hasan from Uttar Pradesh will reportedly be made the new chairperson of the commission.
• The other newly appointed members include Vada Dasturji Khurshed, chief priest of Udvada Athornan Anjuman, BJP leader from Kerala George Kurian, Jain representative from Gujarat Sunil Singhi and former Maharashtra minister Sulekha Kumbhare.
• The panel is expected to be functional within a few days.
• The process to appoint the remaining two members of the panel is still on.
• It is the first time that a Jain member will be a part of the panel. The community was categorised as a minority in January 2014.
• All the panel members will be serving a term of three years each unless they get an extension.
• It would be the first time that all the panel members are social activists.
• Till now, the panel had a retired judge or bureaucrat as its chairperson or member.
The development was confirmed by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge), who stated that the chosen members are very capable people and that he hoped that they would be able to do justice to issues related to minorities.
About the National Commission for Minorities
• It was set up by the Union government under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 to look into complaints from members of five religious communities -Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis)-that have been notified as minority communities.
• The Jain community was notified as a minority community on 27 January 2014.
• The panel has seven members, including the chairperson and vice chairperson.
• Besides NCM, 15 states including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Assam, have set up their own State Minorities Commissions.
• The function of these Commissions is to safeguard and protect the interests of minorities provided in the Constitution and laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures.