Quality Education: A must for Minorities

Justice MSA Siddiqui,
National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Government of India

In south India, the Muslim community has established centres of excellence. But in north India, they cannot even maintain the educational institution established by their forefathers, says Justice MSA Siddiqui, Chairman, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Government of India in conversation with Ankush Kumar

What is the mandate of National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI)?
This commission has been set up to safeguard the educational rights of the minorities enshrined under Article 30 of the Constitution that gives Right to the religious and linguistic minorities to establish their education institution and to administer them also. This is a quasi-judicial body and it enjoys all the trappings of a civil court. The act confers three roles to the commission – advisory, recommendatory and adjudicatory. So far as the adjudicatory part of the Commission is concerned, it has the jurisdiction to declare and determine the minority status of the minority educational institution. In federal polity, we have to respect the sovereignty of the state government. Therefore if any minority institution wants to get a minority status certificate, they have to apply to the state government first and if the application does not evoke any response from the state government, they should wait for three or four months and then approach to the Commission and in such cases, the Commission intervenes and grants minority status certificate on the basis of the evidence produced by the party. In case the state government rejects the application for granting minority status certificate, then one can appeal within 30 days of the order of the rejection. Similarly, if a person from the minority community wants to establish a professional college, be it dental, medical or engineering college for which NOC from the state government is required, he has to file an application before the competent authority of the state government for the grant of the same. If the state government does not pass any order within 90 days from the date of presentation of the application, then it will be deemed that NOC is granted, and in such a situation, he can proceed with the establishment of the proposed college. If the state government rejects the NOC grant application, then an appeal can be filed within 30 days from the date of the dismissal. The Commission’s order can be executed like the decree of a civil court. The commission has the power to execute the order, it also has the power of civil court. If a minority college wants to be affiliated to a UGC recognized university of its choice, they can file an application before the university. If the university rejects the application, then they can approach the Commission and the section says the decision of the Commission thereon shall be final. There is a provision barring the jurisdiction of the civil courts on the matters which are within the jurisdiction of the Commission.

What are the key benefits that an institution can get after getting nominated under the NCMEI?
Firstly, they can constitute their own governing body without any intervention from the state government. The state government and the administrative cannot impose anybody over the governing body of the managing committee of the minority educational institute.

Second, they can admit 100 percent students of their own community if he is not pursuing any aid from the state government. But if they are receiving any financial aid from the state government or the Central government than sub-Article 2 of Article 29 of the Constitution obligates the institution to admit non-minority students also to a reasonable extent.

Third and very importantly, they can select and appoint teaching and nonteaching staff, subject to the rider that the qualification and availability shall be prescribed by the state government, because that is necessary in the interest of academic excellence. Supreme Court has laid down that Article 30 gives the regulatory right and the regulation must exercise the dual test. First, these regulations have to be reasonable, and they must be in the interest of academic excellence.

The fourth freedom is that they can take action against the erring members of the staff.

The last freedom is that they can raise the fees of their institution reasonably. Then there are three more freedoms that one can enjoy in the policy of reservation in admission, policy of reservation in employment; they cannot be made applicable to a minority institution and are exempted from it. The Supreme Court has said that Right to Education (RTE) Act also does not apply to a minority education institution covered under Article 30. Madarsas and Pathshalas are exempted from the rigors of RTE. But the Supreme Court has said that if the minority education institution is receiving any aid from the State, than Section 25 of the Act obligates the institution to admit 25 percent students from the poor community. So in that respect, it is applicable for every limited purpose. Otherwise, minority educational institutions are exempted from the purview of RTE Act.

You have been heading this institution from a decade. What has been the key achievement of NCMEI under your leadership?
The first achievement is that I have generated awareness among the minorities in general and the Muslims in particular about the importance of quality education. I have also been successful in persuading our Kalma Iqra to introduce modern education in the Madarsas. The greatest achievement of the Commission is to declare the Jamia Milia Islamia as a minority educational institution. In addition, I have granted minority status certificate to two universities from the south established by the Muslim community, one university established by the Christian community and the Mohammad Ali Jauhar University of Rampur. In addition, I granted more than 10,000 minority status certificates to various institutions.

The greatest achievement of the Commission is to declare the Jamia Milia Islamia as a minority educational institution

How important is technical education under the whole sector of education?
One message to my community is that our foundation lies in acquiring a strong knowledge of economics, powered by information technology, innovation and education. The Muslim community must establish a centre of excellence. On the contrary, they are opening teaching shops, which is wrong. They have completely failed in protecting their educational institutions which were established by their forefathers. Minorities cannot be allowed to lower down their educational standards under the guards of the Constitutional protection enshrined under Article 30. They have to establish educational excellence. In south India, the Muslim community has established centres of excellence. They have established good educational institutions. But compared to South India, north India is lacking in everything. Here, they cannot maintain even the educational institution established by their forefathers. This is a very sad commentary.

What are the major road blocks in north India for the minority?
People are not serious about it. Unless they are conscious of their rights, they do not know that they need quality education. There a need of enhancement of quality in education, and the Muslim community is lagging behind.