A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court will now examine the correctness of the issue of minority status for Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, referred the matter, saying that the larger bench will define the parameters for the granting of minority status to educational institutions.
In the process, the court will have a re-look at its 1968 decision in the Aziz Basha case, wherein it was held that AMU is a “Central university” and not a “minority institution.”
In the Basha case, the apex court had held that since AMU was created through a law made by Parliament, it cannot be deemed to have been established by an individual or a community, and hence could not be given accorded minority status under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution.
Thereafter, in 1981, the government brought in amendments to the AMU Act and restored the University’s minority status.
But this was again challenged before the Allahabad High Court, which in 2006 struck down the amendments. The High Court struck down sections 2(L) and 5(2)(C) of the Aligarh Muslim University (Amendment) Act, 1981, which granted minority institution status to the university. The court said the sections were ultra vires to the Constitution.
Both AMU and Centre had approached the top court in appeal. However, in July 2016, the NDA government withdrew its appeal and backed the Basha judgement, stating that it still holds ground
The Centre had also said, “It is the stand of the Union of India that AMU is not a minority university. As the executive government at the Centre, we can’t be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state.”
AMU opposed the Centre’s move to withdraw from the case and told the court that the change in government stand over the university’s minority status was “politically motivated”.
It further argued that a mere change of regime at the Centre cannot be the grounds for a decision affecting community members across the country. —With PTI inputs