Minority Status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)

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  • Context (IE): The SC constitution bench began hearing on the issue of the minority status of AMU.

Foundations of AMU

  • AMU’s origins can be traced back to the Madrasatul Uloom by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875 in Aligarh. It later evolved as Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MOA) College.
  • It was to help Muslims overcome educational backwardness and prepare for government services.
  • It imparted Western education as well as Islamic theology.
  • MOA College was conferred university status by the AMU Act of 1920.

Significant Amendments in the AMU Act of 1920

  • “Governor General of India” as “head” was replaced by “President of India” as “Visitor”.
  • Non-Muslims were also allowed to join the University Court, earlier limited to only Muslims.
  • Amendments reduced the authority of the University Court and increased the powers of the Executive Council of AMU.
  • As a result, the Court essentially became a body appointed by the ‘Visitor,i.e. President of India.
  • These amendments were challenged in the S. Azeez Basha case (1967).

S. Azeez Basha case (1967)

  • The petitioners argued that primarily Muslims established AMU and have the right to manage it.
  • The court held that AMU was neither established nor administered by the Muslim minority.
  • The court emphasised that AMU was established through a central Act to ensure the government’s recognition of its degrees.
  • Additionally, the SC stated according to the 1920 Act, Muslims did not solely operate the university. Instead, its administration was entrusted to the Governor General and other statutory bodies.
  • The court remarked that even the University Court, which had only Muslim members, was elected by an electorate that was not exclusively Muslim.

AMU Act Amendement 1981

  • To pacify the country-wide protests, the amendment was introduced.
  • It stated that the university was “an educational institution of their choice established by the Muslims of India” and “subsequently incorporated” as the AMU.

Resurgence of dispute

  • The reservation of 50% of postgraduate medical courses for Muslims in 2005 was challenged in the Allahabad High Court.
  • Allahabad HC overturned the reservation and nullified the 1981 Act.
  • In 2006, various petitioners, including the Union government, appealed before the Supreme Court.
  • Further, in 2016, the government decided to withdraw the appeal.
  • In 2019, the matter was referred to the constitutional bench.
  • Article 15(5): MEI are exempted from reservation provisions.
  • Article 30(1)(a): All religious and linguistic minorities have the right to set up and administer educational institutions.
  • The Right to Education Act requirement of 25% admission to economically backward students is not mandatory for MEI.
  • St Stephens vs Delhi University case (1992): SC upheld 50% reservation for minorities in MEI.
  • TMA Pai case (2002): MEI can have a separate and fair admission process with a separate fee structure but without capitation fees.
  • Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Zoroastrians (Parsis) have been notified as minority communities under the National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992.
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