Last time minority institutions in India made headlines was when Allahabad High Court in 2005 ruled out that AMU was not a minority institution and thus getting into a controversy worldwide. After the issue caught limelight when Centre disowned the claim of AMU and JMI being minority institutions for they are funded by the Centre and do not fulfill the criteria of a minority institutions under the guidelines laid down under NCMEI (National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions) Act, which affiliates these institutions.
Now, the debate is no more restricted to few elite institutions, rather the entire system of Minority Institutions is being put into question. There has been a huge surge in minority institutions throughout the country and especially in the states of Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, which itself has seen 236 per cent jump in less than a decade. How far is that justifiable is a question we all must ask ourselves and most importantly, when a significant number of these registered minority institutes have been certified after the implementation of Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education i.e. RTE in 2009. Along with the minority certification comes several perks of running such an institute and one of such perks is the exemption under Article 15(5) from implementing the RTE which reserves 25 per cent seats for economically backward students. Moreover, hiring of teachers and employees in the institution do not need to follow the basic guidelines as bestowed by the constitution under Article 30.
In 2009, before the implementation of RTE, overall 848 minority certifications were issued but in the subsequent years, the numbers rose significantly, 1122 in 2010, 1656 in 2011 and 1966 in 2012. By today around 11384 minority certifications have been provided to institutes throughout the country. Simply put, 11384 educational institutions are free to function as they wish and are being funded as well.
11-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India in the, T.M.A. Pai, 1 Foundation v. State of Karnataka,1 stated:
Article 30 is a special right conferred on the religious and linguistic minorities because of their numerical handicap and to instill in them a sense of security and confidence, even though the minorities cannot be per se regarded as weaker sections or underprivileged segments of the society.
The very simple question that arises here is about the rights of the students who fail to get admissions in these institutions even after securing better scores against the students of the minority. How can that be justified as a sense of security, confidence and equality when one is being treated unfair over the other based on his caste, class, religion or language?
Another Supreme Court ruling in the case of T.M.A. Pai,2, the court observed that:
A minority institution does not cease to be so the moment grant-in-aid is received by the institution. An aided minority educational institution, therefore, would be entitled to have the right of admission of students belonging to the minority group and at the same time, would be required to admit reasonable extent of non-minority students…
So basically, a huge amount of money is being spent on these 11384 institutions in the country by aiding them by the taxpayers money who happen to be the majority, when at the same time the scenario of the Indian education system has failed to provide quality education to the children due to lack of qualified teachers and infrastructure. Again, how does one justify such disparity in education? What happens to the students who are not minority, where would they go when quality education in India is limited to a reserved society or for those who can afford it, be it basic education or higher education. Won’t that discourage the students?
Here’s what the Article 30(1) and Article 29(1) of the Indian Constitution says about minority institutions
In Article 30
(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice
(1A) In making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, referred to in clause ( 1 ), the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause
In Article 29 (1)
(1) Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same
It is clear from the above articles that the idea of minority institutions is to preserve the culture, literature and art of the minority in the country, but how far is it relevant for these institutions to grow at such a rapid scale and what are the procedures to validate that they are doing their jobs rightly? To put it plainly, it’s hard to point out how many of these institutes are positively using their rights for the betterment of the society. How would anyone know if their certification and exemption from RTE is justifiable over the victimized education system in our country?