Minority Institutions and Supreme Court Judgement
Recently the Supreme Court held that States can regulate minority institutions i.e, 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 judgment came in connection with the case ‘SK Md Raffiquevs Managing Committee, ContaiRahamania High Madrasah &Ors.’ that concerned the validity of the West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act 2008, which had constituted a commission to appoint teachers in madrasas.
• The court upheld the validity of the 2008 Act.
Key Highlights of the Judgement
• According to the court, government-aided minority educational institutions do not have the absolute right in deciding the appointment of teachers and that the state can introduce a regulatory regime and a mechanism to select teachers in the “national interest” to ensure “excellence in educational institutions”.
• The apex court also asked to strike a “balance” between the twin objectives of excellence in education and the preservation of the minorities’ right to run their educational institutions.
• Also, regulations that embrace and reconcile these two objectives are reasonable.
• Education is broadly divided 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”.
• For the latter, the court said to give maximum latitude to the management to appoint teachers.
• Reason for this as given by the court is 'only the 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.'
• Minority institutions where the curriculum was “purely secular”, the intent must be to impart education availing the best possible teachers.
West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008
This 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.
Under the act, it is held that if any regulations seek to ensure the standard of excellence of the institutions while preserving the right of the minorities to establish and administer their educational institutions, such regulations would not violate minority rights under Article 30(1).
Arguments against the judgement
ContaiRahamania Madrasah Committee filed a petition against the judgement mentioning that the judgment by the Bench was contrary to the Court’s stand expressed in Constitution Bench decisions like the T.M.A Pai case of 2002.
T.M.A Pai case of 2002 mentions that minorities have a fundamental right under Article 30 of the Constitution to administer their institutions and appoint teachers.
The 2002 case also said that regulatory measures of control should be very minimal” and “matters of day-to-day management like appointment of staff, teaching and non-teaching, and administrative control over them, the management should have the freedom and there should not be any external controlling agency”.
Contai said the Bench had even contradicted a recent Court judgement in Chandana Das (Malakar) versus State of West Bengal which upheld the rights of the minority communities to establish and run their own institutions without government interference in day-to-day affairs of management like the appointment of teachers.
The petition also argued that the judgment segregated a particular community from the privilege of protection under Article 30. It asked what exactly was the “national interest” in regulating the day-to-day functioning of minority educational institutions.
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 a minority.
But if ensuring 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.
Article 30 grants the following rights to minorities, whether religious or linguistic:
- All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice
- The compensation amount fixed by the State for the compulsory acquisition of any property of a minority educational institution shall not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed to them. (Added by 44th Const. amendment Act)
- In granting aid, the State shall not discriminate against any educational institution managed by a minority.
The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29)
The term ‘minority’ has not been defined anywhere in the Constitution.
The right under Article 30 also includes the right of a minority to impart education to its children in its own language.
PEPPER IT WITH
TMA Pai Foundation Case 2002, Article 29,
Minority Institutions In INDIA
Minority educational institutions are of three types:
o institutions that seek recognition as well as aid from the State;
o institutions that seek only recognition from the State and not aid; and
o institutions that neither seek recognition nor aid from the State.
The institutions of first and second type are subject to the regulatory power of the state regarding syllabus prescription, academic standards, discipline, sanitation, employment of teaching staff and so on.
The institutions of third type are free to administer their affairs but subject to operation of general laws like contract law, labour law, industrial law, tax law, economic regulations, and so on.