Relevance and Propriety of Classification of Citizens into Majority and Minority in the Field of Education

published on May 22, 2007

By Joseph Pulikunnel


Director, Indian Institute of Christian Studies


[Paper presented in “National Seminar on Minority Rights in Education Logic and Fallacies” organised by ABVP on 16th May 2007 in Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium Ernakulam.]


The basic tenet of the constitution of India is that India is a “socialist and secular democratic republic”. All institutions and laws in India should aim at upholding and preserving this basic structure.In a secular socialist democracy, equality of citizens and their rights is of paramount importance.


It may be remembered that no article in the constitution has been debated in the Indian Courts as Article 30. It may also be pointed out that no article in the constitution has been variously interpreted by the judiciary as in the case of article 30.It may also be remembered that article 30 has been a veritable gold mine for lawyers during the last 57 years of Indian Republic!!!


Now the time has come for the secular minded citizens of India to think whether there can be a better interpretation of article 30 other than the judgments by the courts formulated within the four walls of the court after hearing the long harangue of the eminent lawyers. Almost all top lawyers in India have had an innings with article 30 of the constitution.


I am not a lawyer. Hence I am not entering into the labyrinth of hairsplitting interpretations of the courts regarding article 30 by single bench brain to eleven bench brain. As a layman in law and a Christian, a member of the so-called minority community I cannot understand still why I, a Christian has a privileged citizenship in secular India than the NSS chief Narayana Panicker or SNDP Supremo Vellappally Nadesan.


According to the legal interpretation if I, a member of the Christian community start a school or medical college, my civil rights are greater than the rights of the citizens of the majority community. In the words of Vaikom Muhammad Basheer my citizenship is “imminikoodi valiya onnu”.


I was born as a subject of the Maharaja of Travancore a Hindu King, and lived as such for fifteen years. There was no discrimination between me and my friends in Hindu community in our civil rights. NSS the organization of Nairs and SNDP organization of the Ezhavas, and Christian churches of different denomination were running educational institutions and the law applicable to all educational institutions irrespective of the religion and caste was the same.


I am surprised that after India became a republic I have now more privileges in running an educational institution than NSS and SNDP or the most backward members of the Hindu community.


Joy Alukkas a Christian runs a chain of jewellery shops and Krishnan Nair & co. also owns a chain of jewellery shops. The law regarding running of the jewellery shops is the same for both and there is no discrimination on the ground of religion.


Everybody agrees now that education has become a big business in India; even the Supreme Court of India seems to have accepted this new concept of education.


Then the question arises why a Christian who enter into the field of business in education should have special rights than a majority community businessman in the field of education.


Did the fathers of the constitution ever envisaged a situation were the minority community businessman in education should have a special privilege over the majority religion businessman in the field of education. Did they ever think to divide the citizens of India into two classes? Minority and majority and bestow on the minority religion citizens, the rights that are not available to the so-called majority religion citizens. I am sure this has never been the intention of the eminent fathers of the constitution.


The fathers of the constitution wanted the mosaic of culture and religion in India should be preserved intact for the future. The Article 29 of the constitution expressly state the intention of the fathers of the constitution. “Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.”


The fathers of the constitution knew that education was the most important instrument with which the distinct language, script and culture could be conserved. It was with this in view article 30 of the constitution was incorporated as a fundamental right. Article 30 is not a religious right but a cultural right of the minorities based on religion and language. Purpose of the article 30 was to conserve the language and the culture of different minority communities. It is not a religious right.


Articles 25 & 26 of the constitution protect the religious rights of the citizens. Article 30 is for the protection of the culture of language and religion minorities. It doesn’t give the minority citizens any privilege over the majority citizens in the field of education. The right reading of article 25 & article 30 will prove this. Article 25 states “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscious” etc and these rights are for all citizens of India. It should be emphasis that the rights granted by the article 30 is to the minority community and not to the citizens in the minority community. Culture is a social product and the conservation of culture is a social action. So this right has to be enjoyed by the community and not by the individuals or section of the individuals of the minority community. This right is given to the community for the conservation of the language and culture. So this is a community right only for the preservation of their culture. It is not a blanket right for any citizens in the minority community to establish educational institutions. Unfortunately the judiciary kept a Nelson’s eye on this aspect of the constitution.


The Article 30 has virtually now undermine the secular character of Indian Republic. According to the secular concept of a Republic, no religion should be preferred over other religions nor the citizens belonging to one religion should have more rights than the citizens of other religion. The present situation is that the citizens of the majority community are discriminated, and now the citizens of the minority community have privileges, which are not available to the majority religious community.


Every one will agree that education is the most powerful social weapon in moulding the character of the citizens and their culture. The Britishers effectively used the instrument of education for establishing their colonial rule and re-moulding the culture of India. Those who control the educational institution have a socio political hallow around them. There is every possibility of this being misused to undermine the very culture of the Indian society.


The article 30 states clearly that only those institutions, which are established and administered by minority community alone shall have these rights.


In case of the so-called minority institutions in India, the community has no say in the administration of the educational institutions. In Christian community the educational institutions, on the whole are run by the priestly class and the members of the community have practically no say in the administration or policy making of the educational institution.


 I may site the example of the Catholic community of which I am a member. According to the Canon law of the Catholic Church Pope of Rome who is the head of the state of Vatican is the sole administrator of all church properties and institutions in India.


The Canon law reads as follows “ The Bishop of the Church of Rome, in whom resides the office (munus) given in special way by the Lord to Peter, first of the Apostles and to be transmitted to his successors, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the entire Church on earth; therefore, in virtue of his office (munus) he enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church which he can always freely exercise”. According to the canons, all the ecclesiastical properties including the educational institution of the Catholic Church in India are administered by the bishops who are appointed by the Pope of Rome. The community of the Catholic Church has no say whatsoever in the administration of educational institutions. The ownership and the management is completely vested in the ecclesiastical authorities i.e. the priests.


 The Defacto and Dejure position of the catholic educational institution in India is that these institutions are established and administered as an ecclesiastical property by the priests according to the Canon law. The Catholic educational institutions are administered by bishops who are freely appointed by the Pope of Rome or the congregation of priests or nuns approved by Pope. They alone exercise the sole authority to establish and administer the educational institutions.


It should also be noted that the major religious minority communities have international links and are receiving financial support from outside. The support is being used to establish educational institution without reference to the community.


The protection given under article 30 may be used to undermine the integrity and sovereignty of India. Article 51A of the constitution states “ it shall be the duty the every citizen of India to uphold and protect the sovereignty unity, and integrity of India”. The Catholic Educational Institutions that are directly governed by the Pope through Bishops and priests are violative of the sovereignty of India. Granting a special right to these educational institutions under article 30 would be unlawful and violative of the sovereignty of India.


In this context, I may be permitted to observe also that the governments have enacted laws for the administration of the temporal properties and institutions of all religious communities in India – Wakaf Act for the Muslims; Gurudwara Acts for the Sikhs; and various Hindu Endowments Acts for Hindus. But unfortunately for Indian Christians no law has been enacted by the government for the administration of the temporal wealth of the Christian community. It is left in the hands of the priests.


 India is a democratic country, and as such the community wealth of the religions should be administered in a democratic way. Since there is no state law with regard to the administration of the community wealth of the Christians, the priestly class has wrested all authority for themselves and the members of the community are at the mercy of the priests.


Address


Hosanna Mount, Edamattom P.O.


Kottayam Dist., Kerala – 686 588

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