The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Minority institutes seek to keep Centre at bay

New Delhi, July 22: Several unaided minority education institutions today told the Supreme Court that neither the Centre nor states could interfere in their admission procedure and administrative functions.

A five-member Constitution bench of the Supreme Court today began hearings to interpret an 11-judge bench’s earlier ruling in the matter.

There were several views on that judgment.

The institutions, however, agreed that governments could prescribe the minimum eligibility criteria for teachers and students for the sake of “academic excellence” as ruled by the earlier bench.

Hundreds of thousands of students across the country are awaiting the outcome of the hearings as many professional colleges run by private institutions have suspended admission to various courses, including medical and engineering.

Led by Chief Justice V.. Khare, the bench of Justices S.. Variava, K.G. Balakrishnan, Arijit Passayat and S.B. Sinha will clarify governments’ powers over and regulation of admission procedure, fee, selection of candidates to professional courses, appointment of teachers and eligibility crite- ria for both students and teachers.

The apex court said today that it would also examine the practice of “selling seats for a fee” in some professional colleges.

The bench, however, cannot overrule or modify any of the earlier bench’s directions. “This bench will not review the judgement pronounced last year,” Chief Justice Khare today clarified at the outset.

The current arguments would be heard “strictly within the parameters of the judgement and ratio laid down by the 11-judge bench earlier”.

Noted jurist Fali Nariman kicked off arguments for the institutions.

He said religious and linguistic minorities had the right to establish educational institutions, and the words “of their choice” as enshrined in the Constitution allowed them to establish professional institutions such as those for medicine and engineering.

The jurist argued that “admission of students to unaided minority educational institutions cannot be regulated by the state or the university concerned”.

They could only prescribe “qualifications and minimum conditions of eligibility in the interests of academic standards”.

The “right to admit students” was a part of the “right to administer” an institution and, as such, this right of unaided minority institutions could not be interfered with, he said.

Harish Salve, appearing for the Vellore Christian Medical College, echoed Nariman.

If a minority institution did not receive any aid from a state or the Centre, then it would be free to administer its affairs, including the right to admit students of its choice, Salve argued.

Further arguments will be heard tomorrow.

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