The Supreme Court Monday sent a petition challenging the recital of Hindi and Sanskrit prayers by Kendriya Vidyalaya students in the morning assembly to a Constitution bench. The apex court directed that the plea be placed before Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi for referring it to an appropriate bench.
The petition, filed by Madhya Pradesh-based lawyer Veenayaj Shah, said the prayers are “based on Hindu religion” and was being “imposed” on students irrespective of their faith and belief.
According to the Revised Education Code for Kendriya Vidyalayas implemented in 2013, “compulsory attendance” of students in the morning assembly is required where they have to recite the prayers.
“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.
When a bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Navin Sinha hearing the plea had sought the Centre’s views on the issue, the HRD Ministry responded saying the institution was an autonomous body and it has nothing to do about the mandatory prayer recital.