What are minority educational institutions (MEIs)?
These are the institutions established to protect and promote the unique culture and traditions of minority groups. The minority groups can either be linguistic or religious.
Indian constitution has recognized the right of religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions as fundamental rights.
- Article 29 related to Protection of interests of minorities says: “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.”
- Article 30 confers all minorities, linguistic or religious, the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. It also prohibits the state in discriminating against such institutions in granting aid on the ground that it is under the management of minority.
Challenges faced by MEIs
- MEIs hardly have any substantial autonomy as they receive funds from the government. For e.g. while the president of India can nullify any decision of these universities, he has no such power in respect of private universities.
- The real issue is the maladministration of minority institutions. Many private unaided minority institutions are in a mess and suffering from mismanagement, corruption etc. For e.g. selling minority seats to nonminority candidates.
- Exemption from RTE act obligations has led to rent-seeking behaviour among schools. Poorer sections among minority groups are not able to take admission in such institutions which render the purpose of establishing such institutions defeated.
- National level Entrance exams like National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) and common counselling have now virtually taken away the minority institutions’ right to admit students of their choice.
- Many Schools have resorted to acquire fake minority certificate to avoid obligations under RTE act 2009.
- In 2016 the Central government has filed a fresh affidavit in SC saying a Central University, cannot be granted minority status.
- SC was hearing an appeal against Allahabad high court Judgement 2006 in which the minority status accorded to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was revoked.
- The Law Ministry has recommended revoking the 2011 order of NCMEI declaring Jamia Millia Islamia as a religious minority institution on the same ground.
- The minority status should not be revoked due to mere technical lacunae. After all Minorities invest their resources, properties and time and also educate 50% non-minorities in their institutions.
- The ambiguities and gaps in the current administrative setup must be removed so that minority status’ is not hijacked for private interests at the expense of minority welfare and equitable education
- More autonomy must be given to such universities in curriculum design and operation.
- The court has consistently maintained that the receipt of governmental aid does not mean the surrender of minority character. Hence Government may provide funding to MEIs in tune with other universities.
- The Supreme Court’s decision to exempt all minority schools from the RTE need to be reviewed.
- The separate criteria for linguistic minorities must be evolved as criteria formulated by the NCMEI for religious minorities cannot be applied indiscriminately on linguistic minorities. For e.g. the medium of instruction in the linguistic minority institution must be in its language. At present, only Maharashtra has such a requirement.