Modi Government Opposes Religious Minority Status of Jamia Millia Islamia

The BJP-led Central government's revised affidavit in Delhi high court relies on Supreme Court’s ruling in the Azeez Basha vs Union of India case.

New Delhi: The Modi government has filed an affidavit in the Delhi high court opposing the religious minority status awarded to Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI). This is contrary to the position held by the previous Congress-led coalition government.

According to an Indian Express report, the revised affidavit, filed on March 5, contests the order of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), which recognises JMI as a religious minority institution.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development in August 2011 submitted an affidavit in court certifying that then UPA-II government “respects the declaration made by NCMEI”. The ministry, at that time, was headed by Kapil Sibal.

The BJP-led Central government’s revised affidavit relies on Supreme Court’s ruling in the Azeez Basha vs Union of India. According to Indian Express, the affidavit, justifying its opposition to JMI’s minority status observes that the first affidavit did not take into account the apex court’s judgment in the case stating that the university, instituted under an Act of parliament, was ineligible to claim minority status..

As per the new affidavit – taken on record by the Delhi high court on March 13:

“In any event, the Board of Jamia Millia Islamia is elected and need not necessarily consist of majority belonging to Muslim religion. The question of it being a minority institution therefore does not arise.”

“Treating a central university as a minority education institution is repugnant to law besides undermining its status and is against the basic tenet of a central university… By no stretch of imagination, Article 30(1) could be read to mean that even if an educational institution has been established by a Central Act, still the minority has the right to administer it.”

It was argued that since JMI set up “by an Act of Parliament,” is funded by the Central government, and was not “set up by a minority sect, the university does fall under the realm of being a “minority institution.”

The government’s change in view on the institution, according to Indian Express, is in line with the stand of the NDA-II, which had rolled back its predecessor’s ruling on the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University in the Supreme Court in January 2016.

In 2011, NCMEI stated: “Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution”, and was, therefore, “covered under Article 30(1), read with Section 2(g) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act”.

Based on this order, the university ended reservation for SC, ST and OBC students and reserved half of the seats in each course for Muslim candidates.

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