Officials 'disobey' toothless minorities panel, says its chief

It's the only govt commission in State with no civil court powers

 The two-decade-old Karnataka State Minorities Commission (KSMC) has remained a toothless snake as it has been deprived of biting powers. It is the only commission in the State which doesn’t have the powers of a civil court, which means the bureaucracy often refuses to obey its orders.

Though the KSMC has been making efforts for the last several years to be on a par with other commissions, the government has inexplicably chosen to ignore the demand. The present dispensation is said to be the most fiendly towards the scheduled castes/tribes, backward classes and minorities as Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has a strong base of what is called Ahinda (Kannada acronym for minorities, backwards and dalits). It has four Cabinet ministers from the minority communities, Qamarul Islam, R Roshan Baig, U T Khader (all Muslim) and K Abhayachandra Jain (Jain). Yet, getting the desired powers has remained a distant dream for the KSMC.

The KSMC chairperson, Balkhees Banu who is finding it difficult to make the bureaucracy to follow the commission’s orders, has already written to the government. “In the absence of civil court powers, it has become difficult to review and summon the officials of departments concerned to extract information for further action,” she said in her letter to Baig, the Minister for Infrastructure Development, Information and Public Relations and Haj.

Granting of civil court powers will not result in monetary implications and even if there are some, these could be covered by the commission’s grants, she argued.

According to highly placed sources, the National Commission for Minorities and minority commissions in 13 states enjoy the powers of a civil court.

In Karnataka itself, such powers have been given to the Karnataka State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission, the Karnataka State Commission for Women and the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission. Obviously, only the KSMC has been denied these powers, something the minorities feel is “discriminatory”.

The powers/functions of the KSMC are restricted, among others, to examination of working of various legislative safeguards for minorities, to make recommendations for their proper implementation, to conduct studies and research on the issues of discrimination against minorities, to make factual assessment of representation of minorities in the state service sector and to make periodical reports to the government.

The commission, however, has been denied the crucial powers of a civil court which can empower it, among others, to issue directions to the authorities, summon and enforce attendance of any person from the state, receive evidence on affidavits, requisition any public record, require the discovery and production of any document and any other matter which may be prescribed.

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