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AMU: Minority Institution Status



  Apr 16, 2024

AMU: Minority Institution Status



Background:

The legal status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as a minority institution has been a contentious issue, challenged through various legal decisions over decades. The cornerstone of these challenges lies in the interpretation and application of Article 30 of the Indian Constitution, which provides rights to minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.

Key Legal Milestones:

S. Azeez Basha v. Union of India, (1968):

■ The Supreme Court ruled that AMU was established by an Act of Parliament (the 1920 Act) and not by the Muslim community, thus it does not qualify as a minority institution under Article 30.


■ Aligarh Muslim University (Amendment) Act, 1981:

■ This amendment sought to redefine AMU as an educational institution established by the Muslims of India, attempting to counteract the 1968 Supreme Court decision.

Naresh Agarwal v. Union of India, 2005:


■ The Allahabad High Court upheld the principle that AMU is not a minority institution, emphasizing that the university could not reserve 50 percent of its postgraduate medical seats for Muslim candidates.

Referral to the 7-Judge Bench:


■ Given ongoing disputes and the need for a definitive interpretation of what constitutes a minority educational institution, the matter was escalated to a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court. This bench is tasked with addressing whether an institution qualifies as a minority educational institution based on its establishment by a minority group or if its administration by the minority is essential.

Current Proceedings:


The seven-judge Constitution Bench, including Chief Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud, began hearings in January 2024 to delve deeper into these issues. Early discussions have clarified that Article 30 does not necessitate administration solely by minorities but acknowledges their right to administer their institutions as they see fit.

Unresolved Questions:


While cases like T.M.A. Pai Foundation and P.A. Inamdar have touched upon related themes, specific questions about the indicia for classifying an educational institution as a minority institution remain unanswered.

Implications:

The ongoing deliberations and eventual decisions of this bench will have significant implications for the definition and rights of minority educational institutions in India, potentially influencing not just AMU but other institutions claiming minority status.

This overview encapsulates the legal journey and the complexities involved in determining AMU’s status as a minority institution, highlighting the pivotal role of judicial interpretation in shaping educational rights in India.


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