Minority varsities unconstitutional: Ministry Panel

published on June 2, 2013

 The Centre’s plan to set up five minority universities has suffered a setback with a seven-member panel of the Minority Affairs Ministry concluding that the proposal is “unconstitutional.”

The report submitted by the panel, headed by former University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman Sukhadeo Thorat, said that Parliament cannot pass an Act to set up a “minority” university. The panel has cited examples of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia which are facing major litigations on this count.

The Minority Affairs Ministry had first mooted the proposal in 2007 and financial provisions for raising these universities were made in the last Budget. The Ministry had justified the move arguing that these varsities were being set up under Article 30(1) of the Constitution, which states that all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

The Ministry had formed the Thorat Committee last year to prepare a feasibility report for the five varsities. Instead, the Thorat Committee rejected the very proposal. “India being a secular State, it cannot differentiate between majority and minority,” the report reads.

While the Thorat Committee suggested that the five institutions can be set up as Central Universities with their focus on the minorities, the Ministry wanted to label them minority institutions with 50 per cent reservation.

“The whole idea of minority institutions is to help empower these sections, which feel they are being marginalised as they are in minority. By giving these universities a “minority” status we are also ensuring seats for them, which will not happen if they are Central universities catering to the majority,” a Ministry official said.

“We will have more meetings in the coming weeks to decide the net course of action,” he added. The Thorat panel report said that the universities may have an informal arrangement to help the minority communities by relaxing their admission norms and giving them grace marks in entrance tests. Recommendations also say that three universities should be set up in the States with large Muslim population, the fourth one in an area with a sizeable Buddhist population — preferably in Vidharbha region in Maharashtra — and the fifth in an area with a large Christian population, preferably Kerala.

Thorat led committee comprises VCs of Jamia Millia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, besides former Karnataka Chief Secretary and former Minister J Alexander.

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