Uttar Pradesh Madarsa Education Act

News Excerpt:

The Supreme Court stayed the operation of an Allahabad High Court judgment that struck down a 20-year-old Uttar Pradesh law regulating madrasas and ordered the transfer of their students to regular schools.

About the U.P. Madarsa Education Act: 

  • Enacted in 2004, the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madarsa Education Act was designed to streamline madrassa education, defining it as education in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Islamic studies, Tibb (traditional medicine), philosophy and other specified branches. 
  • Uttar Pradesh is home to approximately 25,000 madrassas, out of which 16,500 are officially recognized by the Uttar Pradesh Madrassa Education Board. 
    • Among these recognized institutions, 560 receive financial support from the government. 
    • Additionally, there are 8,500 unrecognized madrassas operating in the state.
  • The Madarsa Education Board awards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees known as Kamil and Fazil respectively. Diplomas issued by the board are referred to as Qari, and it also grants certificates and other academic honors. 
  • The board is responsible for conducting examinations for courses such as Munshi and Maulvi (Class X) and Alim (Class XII). 
  • The Madarsa Education Board is responsible for specifying the curriculum, textbooks, reference books, and any other teaching materials required for courses such as Tahtania, Fauquania, Munshi, Maulvi, Alim, Kamil, and Fazil.

More About the news: 

  • A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud decided to freeze the implementation of the High Court judgment of March 22 in an interim order even as the Uttar Pradesh government said it had learnt to “accept” the High Court verdict.  
    • The bench said it “would impinge on the future course of education of nearly 17 lakh students who are pursuing education in these institutions”.
  • The State claimed to have fought tooth and nail for the survival of the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrasa Education Act, 2004 in the High Court. 
    • However, it has now reconciled to the High Court’s point of view that the Act threatened the principles of secularism and was violative of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
  • The Attorney General of India submitted the basic question in court, “How did you support a law which provides for a wide array of State entanglement with religion and religious institutions? 
  • Additional Solicitor General for Uttar Pradesh, said the course of instruction provided in madrasas did not involve broad-based subjects such as Maths, Science, Social Studies. The study of secular subjects was optional.
    • But the court countered the State’s logic, asking how the striking down of a law regulating madrasas would ensure that madrasa students were instructed in Maths, Science, Social Studies, Languages and History.
  • “The remedy would not be to strike down the Madrasa Board Act, but to issue suitable directions to enable students pursuing their education in madrasas to access the quality of education made available by the State in other institutions,” Chief Justice Chandrachud dictated in the order for the Bench.
  • The court said if the State had a “legitimate public interest” in all students, including those in madrasas, it ought to ensure that “they receive education of a requisite quality and standard which make them qualified to pursue a dignified existence”.
    • The court said it was left to the choice of students and their parents to stay back or leave madrasas to join mainstream schools. 
    • However, it was unwarranted on the part of the High Court to direct their transfer to “regular” schools.
  • Additional Solicitor General for Uttar Pradesh, tried to reason that the madrasas had not been shut down after all. 
    • Only the students have been directed to be re-allocated. 
    • He argued that Article 28(1) of the Constitution prohibited religious instruction in educational institutions wholly maintained out of State funds.
  • Appearing for an association of madrasa teachers that challenged the High Court judgment, said that the verdict affected the lives of nearly 17 lakh students spread across 16,000 madrasas in Uttar Pradesh.
    • They said that unlike what the State claimed, only 560 of the 16,000 madrasas were recognised by State funds
    • The petitioners argued that imparting religious instruction in secular institutions was not proscribed in the Constitution
    • Besides, subjects other than Islamic theology are taught in madrasas, the petitioners submitted. 
    • They said without the Board, madrasa education would continue unregulated.
  • In his order, the Chief Justice said the High Court seemed to have “conflated the concept of madrasa education with the regulatory powers attached to the Board”. The reasoning was prima facie misconceived.

Why did the Allahabad HC deem it unconstitutional?

  • The Allahabad HC had invalidated the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madarsa Education Act, 2004, declaring it "unconstitutional" and in conflict with the principle of secularism. 
  • The HC observed that the Madarsa Act contravenes the fundamental tenets of secularism, a core element of the Constitution. 
  • The Act does not ensure the provision of high-quality compulsory education up to the age of 14 years or Class VIII, as mandated by Article 21-A. 
  • Furthermore, it does not guarantee universal and high-quality school education for all children enrolled in madrassas. 
  • Additionally, the Allahabad High Court recognized the petitioner's argument that the Board's power to grant degrees infringes upon the jurisdiction of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

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