HC flays exclusive religious instruction in schools

‘Rights of minorities do not allow them to dilute secular nature of education’

A school that requires recognition from the State government under the Right to Education (RTE) Act does not have the right to impart religious instruction of one religion in preference to other religions as it is discharging a public function, the Kerala High Court said on Friday.

Justice A. Mohammed Mustaque gave the ruling on a petition filed by the Hidaya Educational and Charitable Trust, Thiruvananthapuram, challenging the government’s decision to close down the school allegedly for promoting exclusive religious instruction.

Exclusivism or preference of one religion over others by the State or public functionaries or private bodies, while discharging public functions, strikes at the very root of the fundamental values of the Constitution, especially secularism. It negates neutrality, promotes discrimination, and denies equal treatment. Private schools that are required to have recognition from the State must not promote one religion over others. The exclusive promotion of a particular religion by private educational institutions defies the secular character of the Constitution and denies constitutional value and morality, the court said.

Differentiating between the right of a person or a group and that of a group discharging public function, the court said an individual or a group or a denomination has the freedom to express and to promote and practise their religion.

Pluralist society

That freedom is not available to a private body while discharging a public function. In a pluralist society like India, which accepts secularism as the basic norm in governing secular activities, including education, there cannot be any difficulty in imparting religious instruction or study based on religious pluralism. What is prohibited is exclusivism. Educational institutions can impart religious instruction based on religious pluralism instead of exclusivism, it observed.

The rights of minorities under the Constitution do not allow them to dilute the secular nature of education, or override the basic values of the Constitution, it said.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 12:40:47 AM |

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