Article 30 does not give power to the State Government to establish Educational Boards; Allahabad High Court holds UP Madarsa Education Act unconstitutional

Allahabad High Court

Allahabad High Court: In a series of writ petitions filed challenging the vires of the U.P. Board of Madarsa Education Act, 2004 (‘Madarsa Act’), the two judges bench of Vivek Chaudhary and Subhash Vidyarthi, JJ. allowed the writs declaring the Madarsa Act as unconstitutional, holding it violative of the principle of Secularism, Articles 14, 21 and 21-A of the Constitution and violative of Section 22 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956 (‘UGC Act’).

The matter first came to the fore when one of the current petitioners filed a writ petition claiming that he was appointed as a part-time assistant teacher praying that no regular appointment should be made, and his service should be regularized. The main questions that arose as a result of this petition were whether only a person belonging to a particular religion were to be members of the Education Board constituted under the Madarsa Act and whether the members should be persons having exponent in the field, irrespective of religion. It was also questioned whether it was arbitrary for the Board to run under the Minority Welfare Department while other minority communities’ institutions came under the Education Ministry. Whether it is arbitrary for the Board to deny the benefit of experts of education and their policies to the children studying in Madarsas.

Consequently, a number of writ petitions were filed having similar questions of law which were then connected and referred to this larger bench.

The main question before the Division Bench was whether the provisions of the Madarsa Act stand the test of Secularism, which forms a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. The question of enforcement of Fundamental Rights of minor children of the marginalised and poor sections of the largest minority community of the State was also brought to light by various petitioners.

The Court turned down the preliminary objects raised by the respondents contending that the case lacks locus standi and that it also lacks proper pleadings. The Court, while taking up each ground of challenge, proceeded to make the following observations:

Violative of Secularism

Various judgments of the Apex Court were referred to establish the definition of the term ‘Secularism.’ Secularism in the Indian context was concluded to mean equal treatment to all religions and religious sects and denominations by the State, without either identifying itself with or favouring any particular religion, religious sect, or determination.

The Court in this context also said that religion cannot be mixed with any secular activity of the state. In fact, the encroachment of religion into secular activities is strictly prohibited. The Court clarified that the State cannot discriminate and provide different type of education to children belonging to different religions. Any such action on part of State would be violative of secularism.

Violation of Article 21 and 21 A

The Court, upon hearing both the parties on this ground, emphasised the need for quality education for the children which should be universal in nature. It also said that teaching merely one religion and a few languages, without any study of modern subjects, cannot be called quality education.

The Bench while highlighting the definition of Madarsa Education under the Act and perusing the syllabus for study of a Madarsa course equivalent to Class X, opined that education under the Madarsa Act is certainly not equivalent to the education being imparted to the students of other regular educational institutions and that the educations being imparted in Madarsas is neither ‘quality’ nor ‘universal’ in nature.

The Court pointed out that while the students of all other religions are getting educated in all modern subjects, denial of the same quality by the Madarsa Board amounts to violation of both Article 21-A as well as Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It also said that the State cannot hide behind the lame excuse that it is fulfilling its duty by providing traditional education at a nominal fee.

The Bench also opined that the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasised on modern education with modern subjects, an education that is universal in nature that prepares a child to make his future bright and to take this country forward. Education being provided by the Madarsa Board, therefore, is in violation of the standards prescribed by the Supreme Court while interpreting constitutional provisions.

Conflict between Madarsa Act and UGC Act

While placing reliance on various judgments of the Supreme Court, the bench concluded that higher education is a field reserved for Union of India, therefore, State Government has no power to legislate in the said field.

The Court also observed that upon reading Section 9 of the Madarsa Act which confers power upon the Board to prescribe courses and course material, conducting examinations, grant degrees, and recognise institutions, the Madarsa Act is violative of the provision contained in Article 246 (1) of the Constitution and is unconstitutional to the said extent.

The Court while concluding the matter directed the State to take steps forthwith for accommodating the Madarsa students in regular schools recognized under various education Boards and ensure that sufficient number of additional seats, and if required, additional schools, are created and established, respectively. The Court also directed that the State Government shall ensure that children between the ages of 6 to 14 years are not left without admission in duly recognized institutions.

The Court while allowing the above writ petition directed the connected writs petitions be returned to their appropriate courts.

[Anshuman Singh Rathore v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine All 857, decided on 22-03-2024]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioners: In Person, Advocate Aditya Kumar Tiwari, Advocate Ghulam Mohammad Kamil

For the Respondents: Additional Solicitor General of India, Advocate Afzal Ahmad Siddiqui, Advocate Amrendra Nath Tripathi, Advocate Anand Dwivedi, C.S.C., Advocate Iqbal Ahmad, Advocate Mahendra Bahadur Singh, Advocate Mohd. Kumail Haider, Advocate Sanjeev Singh, Advocate Shailendra Singh Rajawat, Advocate Sudhanshu Chauhan, Advocate Syed Husain, Advocate Vikas Singh.

Amicus Curie: Advocate Gaurav Mehrotra, Advocate Sri Madhukar Ojha, and Advocate Akber Ahmad.

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One comment

  • Talk something about Economy, Development, Education, Healthcare, Crime etc., Why you are always trying to poke Muslims. There are 1000s of things in other religions. Can you talk about that. NO.

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