Cultural And Educational Rights: India, being a diverse country with a myriad of ethnic backgrounds, religious influence and varied sub- cultures, also have minority groups. Articles 29 to 30 of the Indian Constitution effectively aim to eradicate this problem by making a provision in the article known as ‘Right to Cultural and Educational rights of Minority groups’.
The Cultural and Educational rights are measures to protect the rights of cultural, linguistic
and religious minorities, by enabling them to conserve their heritage and protecting them against
Article 29 grants any section of citizens having a distinct language, script culture of its own the right to conserve and develop the same, and thus safeguards the rights of minorities by preventing the State from imposing any external culture on them. It also prohibits discrimination against any citizen for admission into any educational institutions maintained or aided by the State, on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.
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However, this is subject to reservation of a reasonable number of seats by the State for socially and educationally backward classes, as well as reservation of up to 50 percent of seats in any educational institution run by a minority community for citizens belonging to that community. Article 30 confers upon all religious and linguistic minorities the right to set up and administer educational institutions of their choice in order to preserve and develop their own culture, and prohibits the State, while granting aid, from discriminating against any institution on the basis of the fact that it is administered by a religious or cultural minority.
The term “minority”, while not defined in the Constitution, has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to mean any community which numerically forms less than 50% of the population of the state in which it seeks to avail the right under Article 30. In order to claim the right, it is essential that the educational institution must have been established as well as administered by a religious or linguistic minority. Further, the right under Article 30 can be availed of even if the educational institution established does not confine itself to the teaching of the religion or language of the minority concerned, or a majority of students in that institution do not belong to such minority. This right is subject to the power of the State to impose reasonable regulations regarding educational standards, conditions of service of employees, fee structure, and the utilisation of any aid granted by it.
RIGHT TO PROTECTION OF INTERESTS (ARTICLE 29)
The constitution of India ensures equal to all the citizens of India liberty pertaining to conserving their culture, language and script under Article 29 (1).
This provision simply states that the citizens have the right to preserve their language, heritage and backgrounds and cannot be stifled by major language groups.
The second right under Article 29 (2), says that ‘no minority groups will be denied admission into any educational system or institution of their choice, and will also not be deprived of any funds from the state purely based on religion, caste or language’.
In this case, no minority or majority can be denied admission into any state or private institution on the basis of social factors such as language and religion. The institutions have the responsibility of accepting students on the basis of merit and talent, and not on the basis of language, class and religion. The institutions also have to make sure that the cultural diversity of the country is well-maintained in the form of multifarious languages and various religious groups.
Although there appears to be overlapping of provisions in respect to Article 15 (1) and 29 (2),
Article 15 (1) is a more general provision stating that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex, caste and religion. Article 29, however, is more specific pertaining to a particular species of the system in the form of gaining admission into educational systems and getting benefits from state funds like all other citizens.
RIGHT TO ESTABLISH EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (ARTICLE 30)
Article 30 of the Indian Constitution states that religious and language minorities will have the right to administer and start their own educational institutions. However, no minority, other than the ones suggested in the article will have the right to establish any institution.
Article 30 (1A)- In making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, referred to in clause (1), the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause.
The second provision, under Article 30 (2) states that, the government will not deny these institutions any state funds or aid on the basis that it is run and managed by minority groups.
PROTECTION OF MINORITY GROUPS
The government has come with varied laws to help protect the rights of the minorities. The Protection of Civil Rights Act 1989 and the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 are two such acts established by the government. The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, 1992 was set up to look into any grievances lodged by the minorities or any violation of rights. The commission was also set up to advice the state or central government on any matter relating to the protection of educational minority groups by providing reports and suggestions.
LANDMARK JUDGMENTS ON RIGHT TO ESTABLISH AND ADMINISTER
- S.P. Mittal v. UoI (1983)
Validity of Auroville (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1980 was challenged on the ground of being violative of Art. 29 and 30.
Facts: The society was established to preach and propagate the ideals and teaching of Sri Aurobindo. On receiving complaints about mismanagement of the affairs of the society, the Central Government enacted the Auroville (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1980 for taking over the management of the society. It was held that the Act was not violative of Art. 30. Since the said Society was not a religious denomination, the taking over of the management by the State did not violate Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution.
- State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan (1951)
An order of Madras Govt. which fixed the proportion of students of each community that could be admitted into the State Medical and Engineering Colleges. The order was challenged on the ground that it denied admission to a person only on the ground of religion or caste. The petitioners in this case were denied admission only because they were Brahmins. The SC held the order invalid for being violative of Art. 29(2)
- State of Bombay v. Bombay Educational Society (1954)
The SC struck down an order of the Bombay Govt. banning admission of those whose language was not English into schools having English as medium of instruction because it denied admission solely on the ground of language.
- St. Xaviers College v. State of Gujarat (1974)
The petitioners, a Jesuit Society of Ahmedabad, were running St. Xaviers College of Arts and Commerce in Ahmedabad, which was affiliated to Gujarat University, with the object of giving higher education to the Christian students. The said petitioners challenged certain provisions of the Gujarat University Act, 1949 as being violative of Art. 30. The Court held that the said provisions violated the rights provided by Art.30 and thus does not apply upon the minority institutions.
RIGHT OF A RECOGNITION OR AFFILIATION – NOT A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
Affiliation and recognition are matters of policy and the institution seeking recognition or an affiliation has to comply with the basic norms and requirements for claiming the same. In TMA Pai Foundation Judgment, the Supreme Court has laid down that the right to establish educational institutions of their choice is available not only to the minorities but to all the citizens of the India. One of the fundamental rights in Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution i.e. “to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupations, trade or business” – has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include right to establish educational institutions, which is a right guaranteed to all the citizens.
What are the actual rights of the minorities?
Minorities can not only establish educational institutions of their choice but also administer them. Supreme Court has further laid down that the right to establish and administer broadly comprises of right to-
- admit students;
- set up a reasonable fee structure;
- constitute a governing body i.e. Management;
- appoint staff (teaching and non-teaching); and
- take action if there is dereliction of duty on the part of any employees.
Status of Non-minority Institutions-
Non-minority (i.e. the Majority) educational institutions are governed by the policies and regulations of the state government or the Central Government in matters of admission, appointment of staff, fixing the fee structure and constitution of governing body, where as the minority institutions are not.
Except the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice, there is no other right that minorities enjoy under the Constitution of India.