New Delhi: The Constitution is being wrongly interpreted to deny minorities their "legitimate rights" which needs to be addressed by treating them as a "class of citizens" to enable them to avail of benefits, Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan said Monday.
Khan, a staunch votary of quota for minorities, said a "new tendency is emerging to interpret the Constitution in such a way to deny the legitimate rights of religious minorities as based on religion".
Addressing a conference of state minority commissions where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the chief guest, he said, "When minorities demand reservation based on the backwardness or demand certain affirmative action from government to better their economic backwardness, it is turned down as no reservation or affirmative action could be taken based on religion."
He said, "the demands of such reservation or affirmative action is by a class of citizen as per Article 15 and 16 and not based on any religion."
Seeking the positive interpretation of Article 15 and 16 of Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the ground of religion, Khan said the issue could be addressed by treating each religion minorities as "a class of citizens and not as a religious group".
UPA government had announced a 4.5 percent quota for backward minorities, which would have mostly benefited Muslims, but Andhra Pradesh High Court quashed it, saying religion-based quota is constitutionally invalid. The government has moved Supreme Court against the order.
He said his ministry is also looking into Ranganath Misra Commission`s proposal for identification of backward sections among minorities and to recommend measures for their welfare.
The commission had recommended 10 percent quota for Muslims and five percent for other minorities.