AMU minority status: Seven-judge SC bench to examine minority tag to Aligarh Muslim University

By: | Published: February 13, 2019 9:48 AM

The Allahabad High Court had in January 2006 struck down the provision of the 1981 amendment Act by which the university was accorded the minority status.

Taking note of the submission, the bench said the issue needs to be decided and referred the matter to the seven-judge bench. (File photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred the matter of minority status for Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to a seven-judge bench, which will also lay down parameters for granting the tag to an educational institution. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna referred the matter to a larger bench on Tuesday.

The bench agreed with the submission of the AMU that the correctness of the 2006 judgement of the Allahabad High Court, by which the minority tag to the university was taken away, needs to be examined in detail.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for AMU, submitted that the issue involved in the matter was important as the apex court in its 7-judge bench judgement in the TMA Pai case in 2002 did not deal with the aspect as to what should be the requirement for establishing a minority institution.

Taking note of the submission, the bench said the issue needs to be decided and referred the matter to the seven-judge bench.

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.’

Aziz Basha case maintained that AMU was not a minority institution as it was set up the government and not by Muslims. After the 1968 verdict, the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1972 and thereafter 1981 came into force.

The Allahabad High Court had in January 2006 struck down the provision of the 1981 amendment Act by which the university was accorded the minority status.

AMU Act was enacted in 1920, which dissolved and incorporated Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College. An amended Act was passed in 1951 to do away with compulsory instruction in Muslim theology. The amendment opened membership of the Court of AMU to non-Muslims.

Changes were introduced by the 1966 amendment to AMU Act, which were challenged before the SC by S Aziz Basha. The SC dismissed the petition in 1967 holding that AMU was not a minority institution because it had been established by an Act of Parliament and had not been set up by Muslims.

The NDA government has contended that to circumvent the effect of the 1968 judgment, an amendment was brought in 1981 in the central act to accord minority status to the university which was held as unconstitutional by the High Court.

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