Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Ramadan / Shawwal 1423 H
December 2002
Volume 15-12 No : 192
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Issues


Weeding out Prejudice


Weeding out Prejudice

The Supreme Court's judgement on minority institutions delivered
on October 31, is a fine piece of judicial review and wisdom!

By Nigar Ataulla

Bashiruddin Babu KhanThe recent Supreme Court judgement on educational institutions run by linguistic and religious minorities has been welcomed by all and sundry. It has put to rest apprehensions and resolved misunderstanding about the rights and privileges of minorities in the country. The court’s majority judgement delivered on October 31, is a fine piece of judicial review and wisdom. Not only the 11 judges who formed the Constitutional bench, but also the counsels of more than 200 petitioners contributed their thoughts and views on the issue. The court held that the rights of linguistic and religious minorities (as well as majority community) to set up educational institutions of their choice are unfettered, but the right to administer them is not absolute as the State and the Universities can apply regulatory measures to maintain educational standards and excellence, even if unaided.

Minority communities in Kerala have by and large welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on the right to establish educational institutions. The All India Muslim Educational Co-ordination Committee has said that the court direction that the state government should notify the percentage of non-minority students to be admitted in the aided institution is very rational. “ We would like to know the extent of government control. I think there will be a marked difference between the stand of the governments in Gujarat and Kerala on control,” says Church of South India, moderator, Rev K.J Samuel.

The Supreme Court has finally made a favourable verdict on the question of the right of the minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, covered under Article 30(I) of the Constitution of India. “The judgement has given the right to the unaided minorities institutions in the matter of admission to the minorities, except that they ought to follow merit as otherwise the court felt “the institutions will fail to achieve excellence,” says former minister, government of Andhra Pradesh, Bashiruddin Babu Khan The government of India had intervened in the matter and told the court that under Article 30, there was no absolute right of the institutions in these matters, contrary to Article 30 (I). The Unni Krishnan judgement had practically defeated such rights. The Apex court in that case had introduced a scheme of admission under categories of payment and free seats. So minorities educational rights had been badly affected. The observations of the court that the minority institutions should also admit certain unspecified number of non-minority candidates in their institutions to be decided by the state governments, is also welcomed.

The Federation of Andhra Pradesh Minority Educational Institutions and the Sultanul Uloom Educational Society which runs engineering, MBA and MCA colleges, was one of the parties in the case. The society spent Rs.32 lakh on the case. The Federation represents 28 minority educational institutions including medical, engineering, MBA, MCA and pharmacy colleges. “We wholeheartedly welcome this landmark judgement which upheld the constitutional rights of minorities to establish and administer their own educational institutions,” said Zafar Javeed, general secretary of the Federation and Vice-Chairman of Sultanul Uloom Educational Society. He feels that the judgement would go a long way in strengthening unaided minority institutions and protect them from interference by the governments. Eighty per cent of minority institutions are unaided. Only a few primary schools are aided by government, but institutions, which teach professional courses like medicine, engineering, business administration, computers and pharmacy are all unaided. “This judgement means that all institutions will have the right to make admissions for 100 percent seats and not just 50 percent as fixed in the Unnikrishnan case in 1993 and they will not be bound by government regulations on fee structure,” said Javeed. He said the 11-member constitutional bench upheld the rights granted to the minorities under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution of India to establish and administer their own educational institutions. “This was important because these rights were being twisted like in terms of religious education and modern education,” he said. Zafar Javeed is of the view that the judgement would especially help states like West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, where there are very few minority institutions. He pointed out that there are only two minority engineering colleges in Uttar Pradesh and hoped that the judgement would pave the way for setting up of more institutions.

P.K.Shabbeer Ahmed, former general secretary, OMEIAT says, “The uncertainty continues as the Supreme Court has vested powers with the governments. Article 30(1)says that the religious and linguistic minorities can establish educational institutions, but at the same time Article 29 says that there should not be any discrimination in the admissions on the basis of religion , caste and creed. We have to still run from pillar to post for grants”.

Dawood Miyan Khan, Secretary and correspondent, Quaid-e-Millath College, Medavakkam, Chennai says, “the Supreme Court has given powers to the state governments in the governance of the minority institutions. We are apprehensive about in what way the government will behave. In the case of administration of the institutions, if the interference is beyond certain limits, the concept of minorities’ rights will be defeated”.

It is quite clear that the court has followed the simple principle that if an institution makes no demands on the state, the state can make no demands on the institution. This would seem to be in keeping with the principles of globalisation. Perhaps it will encourage foreign capital from NRIs and others to come and open upper-end elite schools which will be in the nature of international schools- self-financing so to speak with the fees alone sufficient to run the institution.

(With inputs from K.Malikul Azeez and Farukh Shahriyar)

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