Minority Educational Institutions Do Not Have Absolute Right of Appointments: SC

The apex court held that the state could introduce a regulatory regime and a mechanism to select teachers in the “national interest”.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said that government-aided minority educational institutions do not have absolute right in deciding the appointment of teachers and that the state can introduce a regulatory regime and a mechanism to select teachers in the “national interest” to ensure “excellence in educational institutions,” according to a report in The Hindu.

The judgment came in connection with a case that concerned the validity of the West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act 2008, which had constituted a commission to appoint teachers in madrasas.

Upholding the validity of the 2008 Act, the apex court held that the commission was made up of persons with knowledge of Islamic culture and theology and that the provisions of the Act were “specially designed” for madrasas. The court held that the Act was “not violative of the rights of the minority educational institutions on any count”.

The court held that minority institutions cannot ignore such a legal regime on the grounds that it is their fundamental right under Article 30 of the constitution to establish and administer their educational institutions.

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A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and U.U. Lalit, however, stressed that the regulatory law should strike a balance to achieve the dual objectives of ensuring the standard of excellence and preserving the right of the minorities to establish and administer their institutions.

Authoring the verdict, Justice Lalit wrote:

“When it comes to the right to appoint teachers, in terms of law laid down in the TMA Pai Foundation case, a regulation framed in the national interest must necessarily apply to all institutions regardless whether they are run by majority or minority as the essence of Article 30(1) is to ensure equal treatment between the majority and minority institutions.

An objection can certainly be raised if an unfavourable treatment is meted out to an educational institution established and administered by minority. But if ensuring of excellence in educational institutions is the underlying principle behind a regulatory regime and the mechanism of selection of teachers is so designed to achieve excellence in institutions, the matter may stand on a completely different footing.”

To achieve a balance between the twin objectives of ensuring excellence in education and preserving the right of minorities, the court said, it divides education into two categories – secular education and education “directly aimed at or dealing with preservation and protection of the heritage, culture, script and special characteristics of a religious or a linguistic minority.”

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On the latter, the court advocated that “maximum latitude” be given to the management to appoint teachers. The court also holds that only “teachers who believe in the religious ideology or in the special characteristics of the concerned minority would alone be able to imbibe in the students admitted in such educational institutions, what the minorities would like to preserve, profess and propagate.”

“However, when it comes to the second category, the governing criteria must be to see to it that the most conducive atmosphere is put in place where the institution achieves excellence and imparts best possible education. If the subjects in the curriculum are purely secular in character, that, is to say, subjects like Arithmetic, Algebra, Physics, Chemistry or Geography, the intent must be to impart education availing the best possible teachers,” the bench said.

Where the curriculum was “purely secular”, the intent must be to impart education by availing the best teachers.