Under the Right to Education Act (RTA), the decision of the Union Government to make it obligatory for the Private Educational Institutions (PEI) to reserve 25 per cent of the seats for economically backward students, has been upheld by the Supreme Court (SC). According to me it is a good decision. Even those PEIs, that do not receive government grant also come under this obligation. But, those PEIs that are run by the minorities will be exempted from the jurisdiction of this Act. It is difficult to understand, why the SC is obsessed with the duality of educational Institutions. Private Educational Institutions are private institutions, that do not receive any government aid. One can understand the vote-bank compulsions of the political parties. But should SC be constrained to stoop to that level. I would like to congratulate the dissenting judge Hon. Justice Radhakrishnan who in his judgement has pointed out this discrepancy in his minority judgement.
One may argue that this dichotomy is not the creation of the SC judgement. It is inherent in our Constitution. Article 30 of the Constitution is specifice about it. The article says :- “All minorities whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” The words are clear but what is the spirit behind these words?
I will cite two examples. I am a Marathi speaking person. In Delhi, I belong to a linguistic minority. I, as of my right conferred on me by Article 30, start a Marathi school in Delhi; and the government can not stop me from doing that. But, suppose, in my school, I admit even those students whose mother tongue is not Marathi, and their number is tremendously larger than that of the Marathi-speaking students, should it be called a minority educational institution? And if so, on what basis? Just because, the founder of the school belongs to a linguistic minority, should that school be exempted from general government rules, about promotion or reservation for SC and ST students? Is that the spirit of the Article 30?
I, here cite a concrete case. I am referring to Hislop College, Nagpur, which is a renowned higher education imparting institution. I served in that college for 17 long years. It is founded by the 'Church of Scotland', a missionary outfit. But, 90 per cent of the students admitted in the college were and even now are non-Christians. It also receives government grant. Should it be called a minority educational institution and free from obligatory provisions of the government regulations? Why should not a non-Christians occupy the Principal's chair? Why should the institution be exempt from employing ST and SC candidates? Had the institution admitted, catered and ministered to the needs of the students, belonging to their religious denomination, then only it could be called a Minority Educational Institution and would certainly have the benefit of the benign, protective umbrella of Article 30. I think that is the spirit of that Article.
It is true that the words of that Article do not explicitly say so. But is it not the spirit of that Article that should be understood? I would suggest that some one should file a PEL in the SC and get its verdict about the meaning of the Minority Educational Institution. Or, let the Parliament amend that Article with a proviso that will say 'provided those institutions are meant for the students of their religious denomination or language'. Those who exploit the public; financially or otherwise, should not be allowed to do their business, under the cover of a Minority Educational Institution, simply because, it is founded and run by minorities, whether based on religion or language.