By Md. Ali, TwoCircles.net
New Delhi: The National Commission for Minorities Educational Institutions (NCMEI) has done away with the criterion of fixation of percentage of minority students in a Minority Educational Institution (MEI), as the determining factor of its minority status.
The Commission said that fixing a percentage of student’s admission belonging to a notified community will negate the autonomy, which the Constitution provides to the minorities in running their educational institutions.
Minority schools are not required to admit a minimum quota of minority students, rules NCMEI. How will it affect already poor Muslim enrollment?
In the past, there had been some instances where a number of states had denied minority status to many educational institutions, on the ground that they didn’t have the required percentage of students from their community. It was this practice which was challenged before the Commission by Buckley Primary School, Cuttack and Orissa.
In its order on July 6, 2010, the Commission comprising its Chairman Justice M.S.A. Siddiqui and Members, Dr. Mohinder Singh and Cyriac Thomas, said that fixing a percentage would be a violation of the Constitutional rights of the minorities.
The Commission said, “Fixing a formula of percentage governing admission of students in a MEI virtually involved an abject surrender of the right of establishment and management of educational institutions and the same was inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee enshrined in Article 30 (1) of the Constitution.”
Quotes SC judgment in T.M.A Pai’s case
The Commission was mainly guided by the Supreme Court’s judgment in T.M.A Pai’s case. It quoted the Apex court’s judgment in the case. The Apex court had pointed out: "What would be a reasonable extent would depend upon variable factors, and it will not be advisable to fix a specific percentage. The situation would vary according to the type of the institution and the nature of education that is being imparted in the institution. Usually at the school level, although it may be possible to fill up all the seats with students of the minority group, at higher level, either in colleges or technical institutions, it may not be possible to fill up all the seats with the students of the minority groups".
NCMEI was formed in 2004 by the ministry of human resource development. It settles disputes relating to the minority status of educational institutions, grants minority status to them and also advises Central and state governments on matters relating to the education of minority communities.
This judgment of NCMEI has provoked widespread reaction in the civil society, as it is going to affect the education of the minorities in India, in ways more than one.
A section of minority leaders and education activists have welcomed this judgement.
“This order should welcomed as it will make the process of getting minority status much easier for the minority educational institutions,” this was how Kamaal Farooqui, former chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission, reacted to the judgment.
When asked about possible apprehensions of a section of activists that this judgment will lead to mushrooming of educational institutions, he replied; “literacy rate in Muslim community is lagging behind many other communities. Now I expect the number of Muslim educational institutions to increase, which in the larger picture is going to benefit the community.”
Won’t affect demands for reservation
Talking to TwoCircles.net, Mr. Farooqui rejected argument that because of the Commission’s order, demands for reservation for the Muslims in Muslim minority educational institutions is going to be affected. He regarded both issues as unrelated and part of different problems.
“Our demand for reservation for Muslims, in Muslim minority institutions remains and I don’t think that this order is going to affect this in any way precisely because they are two separate issues,” he added.
Disastrous for poor Christians
But for an activist like RL Francis, president Poor Christian Liberation Movement, this judgment by the Commission is going to have a disastrous consequence on the education of poor Christians.
Talking to this correspondent on phone, he argued that actually Church and Christian run education empire which caters to just the elites and rich. Interestingly their educational institutions are supposed to be for Christians but the percentage of the Christian students and teachers in these schools is negligible.
Constitutional rights exploited by Church
He said that, “the special rights entrusted by the Constitution are being used to churn money and for the expansion of the Churches. They run the schools and educational institutions just to do business and earn profit instead of doing service to their own community.”
For instance, he pointed out that in Saint Thomas school run by the Catholic Church in the NCR has around 1500 students and among them number of Christian students is less than 50.
He questions that if students and teachers in these schools are not Christian, then for the conservation of which religion, language and culture, the Church is using the minority rights?
Mr. Francis represents a section of social activists when he argues that groups with vested interest will exploit the loopholes in the constitutional provisions, for their own commercial interests. The aim of the constitutional provision is to promote interests of the minorities and not to give freedom to run commercial educational institutions in the name of minority educational institutions.
The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (Amendment) Bill, 2010 passed in Lok Sabha and to be presented in Rajya Sabha on Friday will add Universities to the purview of NCMEI. It remains to be seen how NCMEI order will affect the movements for restoring minority characters of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia, a long standing demand of the Muslims.