Recently, In the case of AMU, the Attorney General has argued that Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia are not minority educational institutions since, it was set up by an act of Parliament, not by Muslims. This has triggered a debate about Minority Institution that whether in a secular country a Government university can have a status of both Central University and Minority Institution.
What is Minority Institution?
Article 30(1) of the Constitution, gives all religious and linguistic minorities the right to set up and run educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities. This was presumably done to assure minorities of being able to maintain and propagate their unique and special educational aspects. The law guarantees that governments will not discriminate in giving aid on the basis of their being 'minority' institutions, thus sealing in a commitment by the Government of India to allow minorities to flourish.
What Benefits AMU and JMI would get if they are allowed to retain Minority status?
• They would have freedom to reserve seats for Muslims, for example in Jamia and AMU 50% seats are reserved for Muslims.
• Secondly they would get the freedom to not implement the Reservation policy i.e. giving 50% reservation to the SC/ST and OBC, s. Also there land could only be acquired by the government after paying compensation.
Arguments in favour of Retaining Minority Status for AMU and JMI?
• NCMEI said that, "Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution, was therefore, "covered under Article 30(1).
• In 1920, the Indian Legislative Council set up the University and all assets of Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College were transferred to it. Those arguing for minority character say that, 'this was done by an Act as that was the only way a university could be set up at the time'. Muslims collected Rs. 30 lakh, and handed it over.
• Critics are saying that Government cannot fund and run a minority institution as this would violate the principle of secularism, However Indian secularism is Unique here; Government actively interfere in religious issue, which can be seen from an Annual provision of Rs. 45.5 lakhs and Rs. 13.5 lakhs out of consolidated funds of India for the maintenance of Hindu Temples under Article 290(A) of the constitution, the special status of the Cow and permission to keep Kirpan. Thus, support of Government to minority institution is not a violation of Indian version of Secularism.
Arguments against -
• The Act of 1988, states that "it shall not be lawful for the university to adopt or impose on any person, any test whatsoever of religious belief or profession in order to entitle him to be admitted there in as a teacher or student or to hold any office therein or to graduate thereat". They also argue that, the application to be declared a minority institution was made in 2006, when reservation for OBCs was introduced in Higher Educational Institutions. Making it a minority institution acted against poor and disadvantaged Muslims.
• In the famous Azeez Basha v/S Union of India case, to which AMU was not a party, the Supreme Court ruled that AMU was not a minority institution as it was set up by the British legislature, and not by Muslims. However In 1981, Parliament passed an AMU Amendment Act, which accepted that AMU was set up by Muslims but later the Allahabad High Court ruled in 2005 that the 1981 Act was Ultra-virus of the Constitution and that AMU was not a minority institution. AMU's appeal against the single-judge order was dismissed, but the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad High Court decision, so effectively, AMU remained a Minority Institution.
• The fact remains and history has proven that the minority character and reservations on communal lines are not in the interest of National unity and Integrity. It starts a chain reaction of demands amongst religious groups and it may open up a Pandora's Box.
• Dr. Zakir Hussain, who founded JMI in 1920, could have made it a minority institution if, he had wanted to. But, he did not want the institution to be linked with any one community.
• Due to minority character given to these universities, They do not reserve 50% seats for SC/ST and OBC,s ,which violates Social Justice as these universities are also funded by Central Government.
• No one is saying that, abolish the privilege given to minorities to establish institution for the welfare of their community, the issue is that both JMI and AMU are run mostly through Government- Grant and they are given Central University status and a university cannot be at the same time both Central university and Minority institution.
Article 30(1) of Indian constitution allows each minority to establish and administer educational institution of their own choice, however, in this case, the issue is not about article 30(1), it is about, whether a central university could claim minority institution status? Thus, even if we scrap minority status for these 2 central universities, it would not amount to violation of article 30(1) as alleged by the critics. Instead retaining minority status could open Pandora box i.e. other Institutions could start demanding the same, which could further politicize our already politicized higher educational institution in long run. Thus, Government should scrap minority status of these institutions, however it should also give detailed explanation behind this decision, so that the alleged fear and misconception of some members of the minority community about the decision could be resolved.