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Supreme Court’s Assertion on AMU’s Minority Status


The Supreme Court reaffirms that an educational institution maintains its minority status despite statutory regulation of its administration. The Centre clarified that minority educational institutions, including Aligarh Muslim University, are not obligated to follow the reservation policy outlined in the Central Educational Institute (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Dispute over Aligarh Muslim University’s Minority Character
  2. Persisting Dispute Over AMU’s Minority Status
  3. Constitutional and Statutory Safeguards for Minority Communities in India

Dispute over Aligarh Muslim University’s Minority Character

Establishment and University Status:

  • Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) traces its origins to the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MOA) College, founded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875.
  • In 1920, through an Act of the Indian Legislative Council, MOA College attained university status and became Aligarh Muslim University.

Origin of Dispute:

  • Legal challenges emerged in 1967 regarding amendments to the AMU Act of 1920 made in 1951 and 1965.
  • Changes allowed non-Muslim participation in the University Court and reduced its authority while enhancing the powers of the Executive Council.

Supreme Court’s Ruling (1967):

  • The Supreme Court ruled that, despite Muslim initiatives in founding AMU, its central status prevented it from being considered a minority institution.
  • The Court emphasized that the Act’s establishment, aiming for government recognition of degrees, wasn’t solely the outcome of Muslim minority efforts.

Questioning Minority Character:

  • The SC’s 1967 ruling challenged the perception of AMU’s minority character, asserting that its establishment and administration were not exclusively rooted in the Muslim minority’s efforts.
  • The university attained “institution of national importance” status through the AMU Act of 1981, reinforcing its significance.

Persisting Dispute Over AMU’s Minority Status

Historical Background and Amendments:

  • The 1967 SC ruling led to protests, and in 1981, an amendment confirmed AMU’s minority status through specific additions to the AMU Act.
  • In 2005, the Allahabad High Court nullified the reservation of medical seats for Muslims, citing the SC’s previous ruling.

Legal Challenges and Withdrawal of Appeal (2006-2019):

  • In 2006, petitions contested the High Court decision, and in 2016, the Union government withdrew its appeal, expressing concerns about a minority institution in a secular state.
  • In 2019, the matter was referred to a seven-judge Bench by the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court’s Ongoing Observations:
  • The ongoing case emphasizes that statutory regulation doesn’t diminish an institution’s minority status, clarifying that Article 30 doesn’t mandate exclusive administration by the minority community.
  • A minority institution can have a secular administration and offer non-religious courses, admitting students from diverse communities.
  • The central question is whether an institution qualifies as a minority educational institution based on its founders’ minority status.
  • The presence of majority community office-bearers doesn’t necessarily dilute the institution’s minority character.

Constitutional and Statutory Safeguards for Minority Communities in India

Article 29:

  • Grants the right to conserve distinct language, script, or culture for any section of citizens, including both religious and linguistic minorities.

Article 30 (1):

  • Empowers religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
  • Aims to foster growth without ghettoizing minorities, ensuring nondiscrimination in government aid based on minority status.

Article 25:

  • Protects freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practice, and propagate religion.

Article 26:

  • Grants every religious denomination the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.

Article 27:

  • Ensures freedom from compelled payment of taxes for promoting any particular religion.

Article 28:

  • Provides freedom regarding attendance at religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.
National Commission for Minorities (NCM):
  • Established in 1992 under the NCM Act, it advises governments on the welfare of minority communities.
  • Initially covered Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis; Jains were later added in 2014.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024