Relief for minority colleges as SC dismisses Maharashtra government’s SLP

image

MUMBAI: Eight months after the Bombay high court came to the aid of minority educational institutions and held that they need not reserve seats for backward class students, Maharashtra government failed to get any relief from the Supreme Court. The admissions can now resume for degree colleges without a 25 per cent quota for backward classes in the open category seats in minority colleges.

The SC bench of Justices Kurien Joseph and S K Kaul dismissed the state’s belated Special Leave Petition(SLP) to challenge the Bombay HC verdict of setting aside a Mumbai University circular issued 17 years ago to bring in a quota for the reserved category students in minority colleges too, in the state.

After hearing the arguments for almost 20 minutes where counsel for the state A N Nadkarni and Nishant Katneshwarkar and those for the University P S Narasimha and Rui Rodrigues argued that the law and the amendments made to the provision that keeps minority institutions out of such reservation ambit be given a re-look to bring about a balance between two provisions and to read harmoniously the Constitutional provisions.

They argued that Articles 15(4) and 15(5) of the Constitution, which provide for making provisions for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes, are enabling provisions and the State is not debarred from making provisions for reservations. And also said that “Article 15(5) does not exclude Article 15(4), both must be read together.” The emphasis by the state was that “by making provisions for reservation, minority character of Institutions is not disturbed, that is, the prescribed minority seats of an institution is not affected, such reservation cannot be faulted with.”

By the circular, which has been struck down by the high court, the State Government and the University were only making provisions for the benefit of one section of the society, that is, backward class, without compromising on the benefit of the another section of the society, namely, religious and linguistic minorities. The State is obliged to look after the interest of all sections of the society, the state and university lawyers pleaded.

But the bench held that the issue to keep minorities out was already settled by earlier judgments of the apex court and need not be revisited.

As a result admissions which were delayed will likely resume as soon as possible, possibly on Friday itself as the university vice chancellor is keen for it to resume.

The state had recently stayed degree college admissions over quota reservations as it had planned to move the SC.

The high court in its landmark ruling in October 2017, by a bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and MS Karnik had set aside it as unconstitutional, a circular issued 17 years ago by the Mumbai University.

The May 2001 circular had provided a 50 per cent reservation of seats for backward class in minority colleges offering arts, science, commerce and other professional courses. St Xavier’s College, a leading minority educational institution, through its then principle Fr J M Dias and the Maharashtra Association of Minority Educational Institutions had immediately challenged its validity, fairness and constitutionality. The MU circular was based on a 1997 state resolution providing reservation in each and every institution for special backward class.

The SLP had sought to undo the “injustice” to students from minority section.

“The case in hand is a classic example of “Summam Jus Summa Injuria” –extreme justice is extreme injustice,” said the SLP. It listed two illustrations for the SC to have a “proper consideration of the case”. Pointing out that there are many religious or linguistic minority institutions imparting education. “A student from a wealthy family will be able to get admission in a linguistic minority institution on the basis of his linguistic minority but a student from down trodden class will not be able to get admission as he does not belong to that minority quota.”

Secondly, it had said, “It is a fact that in most of the minority institutions, the required number of students from that particular minority are not admitted.” But it added, though the state was empowered with withdrawing recognition of such institutions,” being a welfare State, the State has not taken action against such minority institutions with a benevolent intention that the students who are taking education in the said institutions should not be deprived of from their education.”

The HC held that under the Constitutional amendments brought about in 2006, ‘minority’ educational institutions “both aided and unaided are exempted from enforcement of the reservation policy of the State in respect of backward class of citizens.”

The constitution under Article 30 (1) provides for rights of religious and linguistic minorities to establish and run educational institutions. The HC while allowing St Xavier’s plea had, however, clarified that it was for the state to verify which of the association’s members are in fact minority institutions.

The issue before the SC was whether the state policy is applicable to minority institutions and is in line with Constitutional provision of Article 15(5) too which bars states from making any special salutary law for admission of socially and educationally backward class or reserved category students to minority educational institutions. The SC ruling comes in favour of minority educational institutions.

Source: Economic Times