Can the National Commission for Minority Education Institution (Commission) grant minority status to an educational institution? The Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to examine this issue as it issued a notice to the government on the commission’s plea against a Calcutta high court judgment that held it did not have the power to decide questions relating to status of an institution.
The top court’s ruling will have a direct bearing on the status of Delhi-based Jamia Millia Islamia, which was declared a minority institution by the commission in 2011.
Its minority status has been challenged before the Delhi high court, currently seized with the matter. The NDA government is expected to support a petition challenging the minority status given to the Jamia Millia Islamia. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has already advised the Ministry of human resource and development that Jamia Milia Islamia is not a minority institution.
Section 7 of the Jamia Millia Islamia Act of 1988 states that “the University shall be open to persons of either sex and of whatever race, creed, caste or class, and 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 therein as a teacher or student...”
Appearing for the commission before SC, senior advocate Sanjay Hegde said the power vested with the commission was not merely appellate in nature, as the HC held. It can confer a minority status as per the 2004 law under which the commission was set-up. The HC ruling the said power was with the “Competent Authority” appointed by the state, which the commission wasn’t.
Hegde contended the Competent Authority can grant a no-objection certificate (NOC), while the commission actually recognises an institution as ‘minority institution’. The HC has confused the power of the competent authority with that of the commission.
“The HC returned the fallacious finding since it confused itself regarding the grant of “NOC” by the Competent Authority with that of declaration ‘minority status’ by the Commission. This distinction existing in the Act was erroneously found blurred by the HC,” the appeal read.
“Thus, the correct position of law is that the scope of power given to Competent Authority under is very limited to granting NOC, whereas it is the function of the Commission Act to declare and grant minority status,” it said.