The NDA government on Monday backed out of challenging an Allahabad High Court order denying the historic Aligarh Muslim University the minority status.
Instead, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi made it clear in the Supreme Court that the government is convinced that the 1967 Constitution Bench judgment, which had held that AMU was not “established” by Muslims, still held sway.
The Azeez Basha versus Union of India verdict of the Supreme Court had denied AMU protection under Article 30 of the Constitution. Article 30 provides minority communities the fundamental right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The verdict was criticised as AMU was not even a party to or heard in that case.
In 1981, Parliament restored the minority status to the university. But the Allahabad High Court in January 2006 struck down the provision of the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981, according minority status to the university. This order was challenged in the Supreme Court by the UPA government.
On Monday, Mr. Rohatgi said the 1967 judgment is still the law. “The 1981 amendment did not go the full way,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur.
Chief Justice Thakur’s Bench was hearing a petition challenging the appointment of Lt. General Zameer Uddin Shah as AMU Vice-Chancellor when the A-G intervened. Mr. Rohatgi went on to repeat the submission in a separate hearing before a Bench led by Justice J.S. Khehar later in the day.
“We are distancing ourselves from AMU. I had changed my mind two months ago,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted there. Justice Khehar’s Bench asked the government to file an application in this regard and posted the case for hearing after the summer vacation.
In the morning’s hearing, Chief Justice Thakur asked how a Central university could be tagged a “minority” institution. “Can a university be a minority institution?” We can understand a college being called a minority institution, but a university?” Chief Justice Thakur asked.