The Supreme Court has held that the rights of religious or linguistic aided minority institutions in the administration of the institutions were absolute and, the State could not compel them to implement its reservation policy.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said: “Minority institutions have some kind of autonomy in their administration. This would entail the right to administer effectively and to manage and conduct the affairs of the institution.”

Writing the judgment, Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar said: “The State might not be well within its constitutional duty to compel minority institutions to accept a policy decision, enforcement of which would infringe their fundamental right and/or protection.”

The Bench said: “A linguistic minority institution [as in the present case] is entitled to the protection and right of equality enshrined in the provisions of the Constitution. The power is vested in the State to frame regulations … to ensure better organisation and development of school education and matters incidental thereto. Such power must operate within its limitation while ensuring that it does not in any way dilute or impair the basic character of linguistic minority.”

The Bench said: “To frame policy is the domain of the government. If, as a matter of policy, the government has decided to implement the reservation policy for uplift of the socially or otherwise backward classes, essentially it must do so within the framework of the Constitution and the laws.”

The Bench said: “A minority institution may have its own procedure and method of admission as well as the selection of students, but it has to be fair and transparent method. The State has the power to frame regulations, which are reasonable and do not impinge upon the basic character of the minority institutions. To provide for and enforce any regulation which will practically defeat this purpose would have to be avoided.”

The Bench felt that it would not be permissible to infringe the constitutional protection in exercise of State policy or by a subordinate legislation to frame such rules, which would impinge upon the character or in any way substantially dilute the right of the minority to administer and manage the affairs of its school.

In the instant case, Sindhi Education Society, running a linguistic minority school in Delhi, was aggrieved by a provision in the Delhi School Education Rules to give an undertaking to provide for reservation in the appointment of teachers to become eligible for grant-in-aid from the government.

Both a single judge and a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court upheld the rules. The present appeal by the society is directed against this judgment.

Allowing the appeal, the Bench said: “Every linguistic minority institution may have its own socio, economic and cultural limitations. It has a constitutional right to conserve such culture and language. Thus, it would have a right to choose teachers who possess the eligibility and qualifications, as provided, without really being impressed by the fact of their religion and community. Its own limitations may not permit, for cultural, economic or other good reasons, to induct teachers from a particular class or community. A linguistic minority is entitled to conserve its language and culture by a constitutional mandate.”

Holding that the impugned rule could not be enforced against the appellant institution, the Bench said the purpose of grant-in-aid could not be so construed as to destroy, impair or even dilute the very character of the linguistic minority institutions. The minority has an inbuilt right to appoint persons, which in its opinion are better culturally and linguistically compatible to the institution.

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