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AMU Minority Status Dispute

Facts for Prelims (FFP)


Source: TH

 Context: The legal dispute over Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU) minority status is currently under consideration by a seven-judge Supreme Court Bench led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.


Background to the issue:

The dispute over AMU’s minority character originated in legal challenges to the AMU Act of 1920, with significant amendments in 1951 and 1965. Changes included replacing the ‘Lord Rector’ with a ‘Visitor’ (President of India) and allowing non-Muslims in the University Court. The SC’s 1967 ruling held that AMU, being a central university, couldn’t be considered a minority institution. This raised questions about AMU’s minority character, challenging the notion that its establishment solely relied on the efforts of the Muslim minority. In 1981, AMU was recognized as an “institution of national importance” by the Union government.

Following the SC’s 1967 ruling, protests erupted and it led to an amendment affirming AMU’s minority status in 1981. However, the Allahabad High Court nullified the 1981 Act in 2005, rejecting the reservation. In 2019, a three-judge Bench referred the dispute to a seven-judge Bench.


Observations by SC in the case:

ObservationsSupreme Court’s Stance
On Minority Status The court emphasized that regulation by statute doesn’t diminish minority status. Article 30 doesn’t mandate exclusive administration by the minority community.
Article 30(1) of the Constitution grants religious and linguistic minorities the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice
Can have Secular AdministrationA minority institution can have a secular administration and admit students from diverse communities; it need not exclusively offer religious courses.
Majority Community in AdministrationThe presence of majority community members in administrative roles doesn’t necessarily dilute the minority character of educational institutions.


Constitutional and Statutory Provisions regarding minorities in India:

Article 29Grants the right to conserve distinct language, script, or culture for any section of citizens in India. Protects both religious and linguistic minorities. The term ‘section of citizens’ includes both minorities and the majority
Article 30(1)Empower religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. Ensures non-discriminatory aid from the Union government.
Article 25Protects freedom of conscience and the practice, profession, and propagation of religion.
Article 26Grants religious denominations the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.
Article 27Provides freedom from compulsory payment of taxes for promoting any particular religion.
Article 28Allows freedom regarding attendance at religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.
National Commission for Minorities (NCM)Established in 1992 under the NCM Act. Advises central and state governments on the welfare and development of minority communities.  Initially covered Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis; Jains were included in 2014.
SC: TMA Pai CaseFor Article 30 rights, religious and linguistic minorities should be considered state-wise.
SC: Inamdar CaseThe state cannot impose reservation policy on minority and non-minority unaided private colleges. Reservation in private, unaided educational institutions was declared unconstitutional.

About AMU:

 AMU traces its origins to the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MOA) College established by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875 to address educational backwardness among Muslims. In 1920, an Act of the Indian Legislative Council granted the University status, transforming it into Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).