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Minority Status of Aligarh Muslim University

Topics Covered:

  1. Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

 

Minority Status of Aligarh Muslim University

 

What to study?

  • For Prelims: All about minority status and constitutional provisions related.
  • For Mains: Controversy over issuance of minority status to AMU- should it be given?

 

Context: The Supreme Court has referred the petition seeking withdrawal of minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University to a seven-judge bench.

  • The matter has been referred to the larger bench to determine the correctness of minority status of AMU and to define the parameters for granting minority status to the institution.

 

What’s the issue?

In 1981, an amendment was brought in to accord the university minority status, which was held as unconstitutional by the Allahabad High Court. The Attorney General had told the Supreme Court that the Aligarh Muslim University could not be categorised as a minority institution.

  1. After the Allahabad High Court recognised the university as a non-minority institution in 2006, the Congress-led UPA government had filed a plea challenging the verdict.
  2. The NDA government in 2016 told the Supreme Court that it was withdrawing the appeal filed by the previous government saying that the university was set up by a Central Act, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had held it as a “central university” and not a minority institution.

 

What is the ‘minority character’ of an educational institution?

Article 30(1) of the Constitution gives all religious and linguistic minorities the right to set up and run educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities. The law guarantees that governments will not discriminate in giving aid on the basis of their being ‘minority’ institutions, thus sealing in a commitment by the Government of India to allow minorities to flourish.

 

Why this provision was included in the constitution?

This was done to assure minorities of being able to maintain and propagate their unique and special educational aspects.

 

Background:

  • AMU was founded as the Madrasatul Uloom in 1875 in Aligarh, and evolved into the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College. The seeds of Jamia Millia Islamia were sown in Aligarh by a group of nationalist students and members who formed a camp there as Jamia Millia Islamia, which later moved to Delhi. Leaders like M A Ansari, Zakir Husain and Mahatma Gandhi encouraged the university to push nationalist values and ideas.
  • However, there was friction between JMI and AMU along political lines, as a significant section at AMU was said to be tilting towards the Muslim League, while the ‘nationalist’ JMI was wholeheartedly supported by the Congress.

 

Way ahead:

Protection of minorities is the hallmark of a civilization. These guarantees are essential in a democratic and pluralistic country like India. The framers of the constitution showed utmost sensitivity to the needs and aspirations of the minorities. Accordingly, special safeguards were guaranteed to the minorities and were incorporated in the chapter on fundamental rights with a view to inculcate in them a sense of confidence and security.

 

Special rights enjoyed by religious minority institutions are:

  1. Under Art 30(1)(a), such institutions enjoy right to education as a Fundamental Right. In case the property is taken over by state, due compensation to be provided to establish institutions elsewhere.
  2. Under Article 15(5), they are not considered for reservation.
  3. Under Right to Education Act, they are not required to provide admission to children in the age group of 6-14 years upto 25% of enrolment reserved for economically backward section of society.
  4. In St Stephens vs Delhi University case, 1992, SC ruled that these institutions can have 50% seats reserved for minorities.
  5. In TMA Pai & others vs State of Karnataka & others 2002 case, SC ruled that they can have separate admission process which is fair, transparent and merit based. They can also separate fee structure but should not charge capitation fee.

 

Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: In the light of recent controversy over the status of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as a minority institution, do you agree with the argument that setting up minority institution in a secular state is wrong? Critically comment.