“Can we be asking all the schools to have one period for yoga classes everyday when certain minority institutions may have reservations against it? What kind of directions we may pass when these institutions may ask us why are you asking our wards to practice yoga when we don’t want them to practice (positions like) ‘pranayama’ or ‘shirshasana’,” questioned the court Friday.
A Bench of Justices H L Dattu and M Y Eqbal expressed its quandary over issuing court orders to introduce yoga as a compulsory subject in schools. “We understand its relevance but can we say yoga is a must? Suppose children from an institution tell us we don’t want it, what do we do? What if minority institutions assert their own set of rights and question our orders? They are not before us as we hear this plea,” noted the Bench.
The court was proceeding with a petition that has demanded directions to all central and state governments-run and funded schools to include yoga as a subject in school education in conformity with the Right to Education Act as well as the National Curriculum Framework 2005.
Petitions by lawyer J C Seth and Padma awardee G L Tandon sought directions to develop curriculum, syllabus courses and textbooks for study of yoga comprising ‘pranayama’ (science of breathing) and also ‘asans’ (science of body postures) for all students from Class I to Class VIII, in terms of Section 29 of the RTE. After the Delhi High Court refused to allow their prayers, they moved the apex court in appeal.
While agreeing to examine the issue, the Bench expressed its reluctance to pass orders straightaway without taking into account possible reactions from minority institutions. “We are of the prima facie view that these things should be voluntary. We think if we ask CBSE to include yoga in its curriculum, minority institutions may come forward to complain. At the end of the day, we think you will need to implead minority institutions to get heard,” it observed.
Senior advocate M N Krishnamani tried to convince the court by arguing that nomenclature should not oblique the fact that yoga was for better physical and mental health of everyone.
The Bench however retorted: “That may be right but it is difficult to say that all children will do it if we issue a mandamus (positive direction). Few things should be compulsory.”
Krishnamani then said he would try to help the Bench overcome its hesitation regarding minority institutions by adducing sound arguments and judicial precedents on the next date on December 3.
A California court had in July ruled that yoga did not by itself connote practicing religious instructions while saying it could be taught in San Diego schools, with a minor change of renaming the ‘asans’ (positions).