The right of an institution, whether run by a majority or minority community, to get government aid is not a fundamental right. Both have to equally follow the rules and conditions of the aid, the Supreme Court held in a judgment on Monday.
“Whether it is an institution run by the majority or the minority, all conditions that have relevance to the proper utilisation of the grant-in-aid by an educational institution can be imposed. All that Article 30(2) states is that on the ground that an institution is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language, grant of aid to that educational institution cannot be discriminated against, if other educational institutions are entitled to receive aid,” a Bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and M.M. Sundresh said referring to the court’s historic T.M.A Pai decision in its judgment.
The Bench clarified that if the government made a policy call to withdraw aid, an institution cannot question the decision as a “matter of right”.
A grant of government aid comes with accompanying conditions. An institution is free to choose to accept the grant with the conditions or go its own way, it said.
“If an institution does not want to accept and comply with the conditions accompanying such aid, it is well open to it to decline the grant and move in its own way. On the contrary, an institution can never be allowed to say that the grant of aid should be on its own terms,” Justice Sundresh, who authored the judgment for the Bench, observed.
The court explained why institutions cannot view government aid as a “matter of right”.
Firstly, government aid is a policy decision. It depends on various factors including the interests of the institution itself and the ability of the government to understand the exercise.
“Financial constraints and deficiencies are the factors which are considered relevant in taking any decision qua aid, including both the decision to grant aid and the manner of disbursement of an aid,” the court noted.
“Once we hold that right to get an aid is not a fundamental right, the challenge to a decision made in implementing it, shall only be on restricted grounds. Therefore, even in a case where a policy decision is made to withdraw the aid, an institution cannot question it as a matter of right. Maybe, such a challenge would still be available to an institution, when a grant is given to one institution as against the other institution which is similarly placed,” the court said.
The judgment came in an appeal filed by Uttar Pradesh against a decision of the Allahabad High Court to declare a provision of the Intermediate Education Act of 1921 unconstitutional.