1. What is a Minority Institution?
Article 30 (1) of the Indian Constitution says that “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”.
But what exactly is a Minority Educational Institution? In order to provide clearer guidelines and monitor these institutions, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act was passed in 2004. Section 2 (g) of the Act defines a ‘Minority Educational Institution’ as a college or educational institution established and administered by a minority or minorities.
But a particular linguistic or religious community can be in the minority in one state, while being in majority in another. In such a case, who decides whether a particular community – linguistic or religious – is, in fact, in minority?
According to a Supreme Court judgment in TMA Pai Foundation vs State of Karnataka (2002), a particular community, whether linguistic or religious, can only be called a minority, if its strength is demographically low in that particular state. Therefore, calling a community a minority does not depend on its numbers at the national level, but only at the state level.
Can an educational institution established by an individual from a particular community for the benefit of the larger community, qualify as a minority institution?
The Supreme Court in State of Kerala vs Mother Provincial ,1970, opined that any educational institution established by an individual from the community can attain minority status, so long as “the intention in either case must be to found an institution for the benefit of a minority community by a member of that community”.
Now, if you recall high school lessons in history, one man by the name of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan appears prominently in the Aligarh movement, as it were called. He had envisioned the educational and cultural regeneration of Muslims in India, by attempting to introduce the community to modern education.
Under his aegis, a school was set up in Aligarh, followed by the Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College (MAO) in 1877. Now if we follow the Mother Provincial judgment, Sir Khan, by seeking to uplift the Muslims of India, set up an educational institution. So, the school and the MAO should be rightly called ‘Minority Educational institutions’, right?
If so, shouldn’t the Aligarh Muslim University, which was formed on the basis of the MAO, continue to represent its minority character?