Topics Covered: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
State can regulate minority institutions
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: All about minority status and constitutional provisions related.
Context: In an important judgement which could have bearing on running of all government-aided minority educational institutions across the country, the Supreme Court has held that such institutions cannot claim to have absolute right in deciding appointment of teachers and it can be regulated by a government to ensure excellence in imparting education.
What’s the issue?
These observations were made by the court while upholding constitutional validity of West Bengal Madrassas Service Commission Act, 2008, under which the selection and appointment of teachers in madrassas are to be decided by a commission.
It set aside Calcutta high court verdict declaring various provision of the law unconstitutional for being violative of Article 30.
It says all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
Observations made by the Supreme Court:
Good quality of education cannot be compromised in national interest irrespective of whether it is minority or majority educational institutions.
The essence of Article 30(1) is to ensure equal treatment between the majority and the minority institutions and that rules and regulations would apply equally to the majority institutions as well as to the minority institutions.
How to strike a “balance” between the two objectives of excellence in education and the preservation of the minorities’ right?
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.
Constitutional Provisions regarding Minority Educational Institutions:
Article 30(1) recognizes linguistic and religious minorities but not those based on race, ethnicity. It recognizes the right of religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, in effect recognizing the role educational institutions play in preserving distinct culture. A majority community can also establish and administer educational institution but they will not enjoy special rights under Article 30(1)(a).
Special rights enjoyed by religious minority institutions are:
- Under Art 30(1)(a), MEI 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
- Under Article 15(5), MEIs are not considered for reservation
- Under Right to Education Act, MEI 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
- In St Stephens vs Delhi University case, 1992, SC ruled that MEIs can have 50% seats reserved for minorities
- In TMA Pai & others vs State of Karnataka & others 2002 case, SC ruled that MEIs 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.