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State can regulate minority institutions, says Supreme Court

A view of the Supreme Court of India.

A view of the Supreme Court of India.  

The court explains how to strike a “balance” between the two objectives of excellence in education and the preservation of the minorities’ right to run their educational institutions.

The Supreme Court on Monday held that the state is well within its rights to introduce a regulatory regime in the “national interest” to provide minority educational institutions with well-qualified teachers in order for them to “achieve excellence in education.”

The managements of minority institutions cannot ignore such a legal regime by saying that it is their fundamental right under Article 30 of the Constitution to establish and administer their educational institutions according to their choice.

In a 151-page judgment, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U.U. Lalit said the regulatory law should however balance the dual objectives of ensuring standard of excellence as well as preserving the right of the minorities to establish and administer their educational institutions. Regulations that embrace and reconcile the two objectives were reasonable, it said.

Referring to the 11-judge Bench decision in the TMA Pai Foundation case, Justice Lalit, who authored the verdict, said Article 30(1) (right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice) was neither absolute nor above the law.

“When it comes to the right to appoint teachers, in terms of law laid down in the TMA Pai Foundation case, a regulation framed in the national interest must necessarily apply to all institutions regardless whether they are run by majority or minority as the essence of Article 30(1) is to ensure equal treatment between the majority and minority institutions. An objection can certainly be raised if an unfavourable treatment is meted out to an educational institution established and administered by minority. But if ensuring of excellence in educational institutions is the underlying principle behind a regulatory regime and the mechanism of selection of teachers is so designed to achieve excellence in institutions, the matter may stand on a completely different footing,” Justice Lalit wrote.

The court explains how to strike a “balance” between the two objectives of excellence in education and the preservation of the minorities’ right to run their educational institutions.

For this, the court broadly divides education into two categories – secular education and education “directly aimed at or dealing with preservation and protection of the heritage, culture, script and special characteristics of a religious or a linguistic minority.”

When it comes to the latter, the court advocated “maximum latitude” to be given to the management to appoint teachers. The court reasons that only “teachers who believe in the religious ideology or in the special characteristics of the concerned minority would alone be able to imbibe in the students admitted in such educational institutions, what the minorities would like to preserve, profess and propagate.”

However, minority institutions where the curriculum was “purely secular”, the intent must be to impart education availing the best possible teachers.

The judgment came on a challenge to the validity of the West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act of 2008. The State Act mandated that the process of appointment of teachers in aided madrasahs, recognised as minority institutions, would be done by a Commission, whose decision would be binding.

The apex court upheld the validity of the 2008 Act, saying the Commission was composed of persons with profound knowledge in Islamic Culture and Islamic Theology. The court said the provisions of the Act were “specially designed” for madrasahs and the madrasah education system in West Bengal. The court concluded that the Act was “not violative of the rights of the minority educational institutions on any count.”

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 3:43:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/state-can-regulate-minority-institutions-says-supreme-court/article30496632.ece

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