The Supreme Court Wednesday issued a notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking “forthwith” discontinuation of Hindi and Sanskrit morning prayers followed in 1,125 Kendriya Vidyalayas, which the petitioner said “is based on Hindu religion” and was being “imposed” on students irrespective of their faith and belief.
“It is an important issue,” the bench of Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha observed while issuing notices to the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan.
The petitioner, Veenayaak Shah who is a Madhya Pradesh-based lawyer, has challenged the Revised Education Code of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan which the petition said was revised in December 2012 and required “compulsory attendance” of students in the morning assembly where they have to recite the prayers.
The petitioner said his children had studied in a Kendriya Vidyalaya and had now reached college. He added that he had no personal interest, but only public interest. “The common prayer is in Sanskrit and Hindi, and all the students irrespective of their faith and belief have to perform the prayer in a respectful manner by closing their eyes and folding their hands. All the teachers share the collective responsibility of supervising the assembly and making sure that every student folds his/her hands, closes his/her eyes and recites the prayers without fail,” the petitioner contended and alleged that “any student failing to do so is punished and humiliated in front of the entire school”.
Shah quoted the prayers in the petition and said it “is being enforced throughout the country in all Kendra Vidyalayas. As a result, parents and children of the minority communities as well as atheists and others who do not agree with this system of prayer, such as agnostics… rationalists and others would find the imposition of this prayer constitutionally impermissible.”
The petition claimed that “a perusal of the prayer shows that it is based on Hindu religion and it is very different, both in substance and form from the prayers of the other religious/ non-religious orientations mentioned above”.
He added that this raised the question of whether the “state” could “impose” a “common prayer” on students and teachers throughout India.