Following the reports that the Centre has opposed the minority status of Jamia Millia Islamia – a central university under the act of Parliament – in the Delhi High Court, the varsity students, academicians and Muslim intellectuals said reversing the previous government’s stand is nothing but aimed at polarising the issue for political gains in the general elections that is to be held next year.
“The case is pending in the High Court and the final judgment will be based on Constitution and law. Section 30(1) of the Constitution says that minorities can establish educational institutions of their choice. Jamia was established before the Parliament Act and was later approved by the Parliament Act. By raising the issue, the government is trying to consolidate majority community in its favour in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections,” said Justice Suhail Ahmad Siddiqui, former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities’ Educational Institutions (NCMEI), while talking to Newsclick over the phone.
The NCMEI – a quasi-judicial body – had granted minority institution status to Jamia Millia Islamia in February 2011 and Justice Siddiqui as chairperson of the Commission had signed the historic order. “On a conjoined reading of Section 2(o) and 4 of the Jamia Millia Islamia Act along with the history and facts and events which led to the establishment of Jamia, we have no hesitation in holding that Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of the Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution,” he had said in his order.
“Jamia Millia Islamia is a minority educational institution covered under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution of India with section 2(G) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act,” he said, adding that the University existed even before the Constitution was in place.
Section 2(o) of the Jamia Millia Islamia Act, 1988, acknowledges it in no uncertain terms that Jamia was founded by the leaders of the Khilafat movement.
Jamia was established for the purpose of keeping Muslim education in Muslim hands, entirely free from external control. Thus the Muslim community brought Jamia into existence in the only manner in which a university could be brought into existence.
He said an aided minority educational institution, therefore, is entitled to have the right of admission of students belonging to the minority group and is required to admit a reasonable extent of non-minority students so that the rights under Article 30(1) are not substantially impaired. “It is well settled that mere receipt of aid does not annihilate the right guaranteed under Article 30(1) of the Constitution,” he said.
The grant of minority status to the university allowed Jamia — started in 1920 and declared a Central University by an Act of Parliament in 1988 — to reserve up to 50 percent seats for Muslims. It also enabled it not to give reservation to Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) students.
Jamia student leaders also slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in the Centre for denying the historical facts.
Usman, president of the SIO’s Jamia wing, said the controversy surrounding Jamia Millia Islamia’s minority status is “ill-founded and wrongly taken”. “The NCMEI has adjudicated and held that Jamia was founded by Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution. And therefore, it is covered under Article 30(1)… read with Section 2(g) of the NCMEI Act,” he said.
The SIO, he said, will fight for the rights of the students and never let vested interests to occupy educational institution meant for the minority community students.
Taking a jibe at the Prime Minister Modi’s claim of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (together with all, development for all), he said the decision to oppose the minority status of Jamia in the court has made it clear whose development Modiji wants to do.
In its official statement, the university said the court will decide the constitutional merit of the whole case. “The matter is sub judice, so the court will decide the constitutional merit of the whole case. Let us wait and watch. Whatever the court decides, we will have to decide how to deal with that,” Jamia Media Coordinator Saima Saeed told Newsclick.
Jamia teachers too said they have complete faith in the judiciary and hope that the court will decide the matter on merits. “We hope that the court will take into consideration the right of minorities guaranteed under Chapter 30 of our Constitution and the specific historical context of the establishment of these institutions,” they added.
The revised affidavit filed by the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) on March 5 cites the Supreme Court’s decision in the Azeez Basha Vs Union of India case of 1968 to justify the change in stand. It states that the first affidavit did not take note of the Azeez Basha case, in which the apex court said that a university incorporated under an Act of Parliament cannot claim the status of a minority institution.
“In any event, the Board of Jamia Millia Islamia is elected and need not necessarily consist of majority belonging to the Muslim religion. The question of it being a minority institution, therefore, does not arise,” says the new affidavit that was taken on record by the Delhi High Court on March 13.
“Treating a central university as a minority education institution is repugnant to law besides undermining its status and is against the basic tenet of a central university… By no stretch of imagination, Article 30(1) could be read to mean that even if an educational institution has been established by a Central Act, still the minority has the right to administer it,” says the affidavit.
The affidavit concludes that JMI “is not a minority institution, having been set up by an Act of Parliament and funded by central government, and also that it was not set up by a minority sect”.
On August 29, 2011, the HRD Ministry, under then minister Kapil Sibal of the UPA-II government, had submitted an affidavit in court stating that the government “respects the declaration made by the NCMEI”.