The Supreme Court of India has appointed a seven-judge bench to examine the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, referred the matter, saying that the larger bench will define the parameters for the granting of minority status to educational institutions.
The court will further re-examine its 1968 decision in the Aziz Basha case, wherein it was deicded that AMU is a “Central university” and not a “minority institution.”
In the Basha case, the apex court had held that since AMU was created through a law made by Parliament, it cannot be deemed to have been established by an individual or a community, and hence could not be given accorded minority status under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution. Later, in 1981, amendments were brought into the act and the minority status of AMU was restored.
The amendment was challenged again in the Allahabad High Court in 2006, leading it to be struck down. The High Court struck down sections 2(L) and 5(2)(C) of the Aligarh Muslim University (Amendment) Act, 1981, which granted minority institution status to the university. The court said the sections were ultra vires to the Constitution.
The Supreme Court of India was then approached by AMU and the government of India regarding the matter. In July 2016, however, the NDA government withdrew their appeal and voiced their support to the Basha verdict, stating that it still holds ground.
The GoI had also said, “It is the stand of the Union of India that AMU is not a minority university. As the executive government at the Centre, we can’t be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state.”
The university had opposed the move to withdraw from the case and told the court that the change in government stand over the university’s minority status was “politically motivated”.