New Delhi, Oct. 31: Minorities do not have absolute right to administer their educational institutions as every right is regulated, an 11-judge bench of the Supreme Court — the largest ever — has ruled.
The court said the state could interfere through “regulatory measures” even in unaided institutions for the sake of “educational excellence”.
The ruling, which came in response to around 200 petitions from almost all state governments, the Centre and various institutions, settles one of the most widely debated — and litigated — issues in Independent India.
Making a raft of key observations (see chart) in the 6:5 verdict, the court also set a norm for deciding who constituted a minority. “The linguistic and religious minorities have to be considered on the basis of states and the population therein,” the court said. The ruling makes it clear that the determining unit is the state, not the entire country.
Writing the majority judgment, Chief Justice B.N. Kirpal said: “The right to admit students is an essential facet of the right to administer educational institutions as contemplated under Article 30. The state government or the university may not be entitled to interfere with that right so long as admission to the unaided MEI (minority educational institution) is transparent and merit is adequately taken care of.”
Then came the rider. “Right to administer is not an absolute right and, hence, there could be regulatory measures by the government for ensuring educational standards and maintaining excellence thereof, and it is more so in the matter of admission to professional institutions,” the majority order said.
Six judges, including Kirpal, endorsed the majority judgment. Four wrote separate judgments, almost agreeing with the majority except on state regulations on unaided institutions.
The lone dissenting judge, Justice S.S.M. Quadri, said minorities have absolute right and the state could not interfere in the administration, including admission, of the institutions.
The ruling added that a minority educational institution would not cease to be one because it received state aid, but it has to admit a “reasonable” number of non-minority students. The percentage of non-minority students should be notified by the state government concerned, the court said.
The court, however, declined to answer one of the 11 questions framed in the case. It related to whether “the followers of a sect or denomination of a particular religion can claim protection on the basis that they constitute a minority in the state even though the followers of the religion are in the majority in the state'”