SC to decide if Kendriya Vidyalayas promote a religion through Hindi prayer, seeks Centre’s response

The petition says it is compulsory for all students — irrespective of faith or belief — to recite the common prayer, which is in Sanskrit and Hindi, in a particular manner by closing eyes and folding hands.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2018 07:36 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kendriya Vidyalaya,Supreme Court,Hinduism
The petition to determine if the 1,100 Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country are promoting Hinduism was filed by advocate Veenayak Shah whose children graduated from one of the schools.(HT file)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to ascertain whether a Hindi prayer sung in the morning assembly in more than 1,100 Kendriya Vidyalaya schools across India promotes a particular religion and violates the Constitution.

“It is a very important constitutional issue,” a bench headed by Justice RF Nariman said while issuing notice to the government.

The petition was filed by an advocate Veenayak Shah whose children graduated from a Kendriya Vidyalaya. Shah, a resident of Madhya Pradesh, said the practise of prayer created obstacles in developing scientific temperament among students as the whole idea of God and religious faith is given immense priority and instilled as a thought-process among the students.

“Students as a result learn to develop an inclination towards seeking refuge from the almighty instead of developing a practical outcome towards the obstacles and hurdles faced in everyday life, and the spirit of enquiry and reform seems to be lost somewhere,” the plea said.

“All the students irrespective of their faith and belief, have to compulsorily attend the morning assembly and recite the prayer,” he said in the petition. The prayer also includes some Sanskrit words.

Teachers share the collective responsibility of supervising the assembly and making sure that every student folds his/her hands, closes his/her eyes and recites the prayer without fail. Any student failing to do so is punished and humiliated in front of the entire school, he said.

Shah also submitted before the court that the common prayer is a “religious instruction” within the meaning of Article 28 of the Constitution and should therefore be prohibited. Article 28(1) says that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds.

The Kendriya Vidyalayas are a system of Central Government schools that were instituted under the aegis of the human resource development ministry.

“The above prayer is being enforced throughout the country in all Kendra Vidyalayas. As a result, parents and children of the minority communities as well as atheists and others who do not agree with this system of prayer such as agnostics, scepticists, rationalists and others would find the imposition of this prayer constitutionally impermissible,” the petition said.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Jan 10, 2018 12:32 IST