Calls Union Higher Education Secretary for a meeting today
Raising concern over the consequences of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) carrying out the order of the National Commission of Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) declaring Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) as a minority educational institution, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has called the Union Higher Education Secretary for a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
The Scheduled Tribes panel believes that the implementation of the order would “dilute” the Constitutional rights of STs in respect of reservation in admission to higher educational institutions funded by the public exchequer. The Commission wants to impress upon the Ministry not to exclude minority institutions from the purview of the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 and if need be amend the Act on reservation to safeguard the interests of the STs.
Commission vice-chairperson Maurice Kujur – who will preside over Tuesday's meeting – was unwilling to speak on the matter, but authoritative sources in the panel confirmed the meeting and added that a note had been sent to the Ministry and is likely to form the basis of discussions.
Chairman of the National Commission on Scheduled Castes has also written to HRD Minister Kapil Sibal that the minority status of the Jamia should not affect the current status of reservation for SC students.
Scheduled Castes panel chairperson P.L. Punia speaking to The Hindu was confident that the interests of SC-ST students would be safeguarded by the HRD Ministry. “We have no problem with the minority status of the Jamia university but it must ensure reservation for the SCs and the STs. I am still awaiting a response to my letter,” Mr. Punia said.
While it is not known what stand the Ministry would take before the NCST, it had submitted before the NCMEI, during the hearings on the Jamia matter, that the Commission should await resolution of a related matter of the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) pending before the Supreme Court before disposing of the JMI issue. The point of law before the Supreme Court is whether universities established by Parliament could be said to have been established by the minorities under Article 30(1) of the Constitution, as was held by a Constitution Bench in the ‘Aziz Basha' matter in 1965. The stand of the Union of India in the AMU matter is that the AMU Act has been amended in 1981 declaring it to be an institution established by Muslims. Two successive decisions of the High Court of Allahabad have, however, called the amendment to the AMU Act as colourable legislation intended to frustrate the Supreme Court's verdict in ‘Aziz Basha' case.
The minority status declared for the JMI by the NCMEI has also been challenged before the Delhi High Court. What complicates the JMI's minority status, apart from the question posed by the ‘Aziz Basha' case is that the JMI Act, 1986 does not define the Jamia as an institution established by the minorities unlike the amendment in the case of the AMU.
Importantly, Article 15(5) of the Constitution exempts minority educational institutions from reservation of seats under the CEI Act, 2006.