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Court seal on Joshi’s syllabus

New Delhi, Sept. 12: The Supreme Court today gave its stamp of approval to the new education syllabus, introduced by the BJP-led government, which has been criticised as an attempt to “saffronise education”.

A three-judge bench of Justice M.B. Shah, Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari and Justice H.K. Sema ruled in three separate judgments that the government was correct in deciding to introduce the syllabus published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training.

The court dismissed a public interest writ challenging the change on the ground that it was “against constitutional mandate, anti-secular and effected without consultation with the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE)”.

Writing the main judgment, Justice Shah said:

nCABE need not be consulted since it is a non-statutory body.

nStudents have to be given the awareness that the essence of every religion is common, only the practices differ.

nThe object of value education is to spur a national fight against fanaticism, ill-will, violence, dishonesty, corruption, exploitation and drug abuse.

nReligions have come into existence to control the wild animal instinct in human beings and to create civilised society.

nEncouragement of Sanskrit is necessary.

nRegarding Vedic astrology, what has been mentioned in the curriculum is “astronomy” and not “Vedic astrology”.

Justice Dharmadhikari said he agreed with Justice Shah’s ruling but gave his own reasons. He said all bodies created by the executive power of the state are answerable to Parliament, which suggests and formulates the national education policy. “It is open to Parliament to fill nominations to CABE, reconstitute it or do away with it. The court can have no jurisdiction in that subject,” he said.

However, he added, if a policy framed in education or any other field runs counter to the constitutional provisions, “this court must, as part of its constitutional duty, interdict such policy”.

“We do not find that the national education policy 2002 runs counter to the concept of secularism,” he concluded.

Justice Sema said he had “reservations” about Justice Shah’s observation that CABE need not be consulted. “Past practices and conventions form a precedent and are followed unless decided otherwise,” he said. “Sidestepping of such an important advisory board as CABE on the plea of non-reconstitution of nominated members is not proper.”

Justice Sema directed the Union of India to “consider filling up the vacancies of the nominated members of CABE”. However, this is a minority judgment.

Human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi said the judgment was a vindication of the government’s stand and added that states should now have no problem in implementing the new syllabus.

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