The Supreme Court, today, while dismissing pleas challenging Government Orders issued by the Government of Andhra Pradesh observed that “The right of minority institutions is not absolute, and is amenable to regulation. The protection granted to Minority Educational Institutions to admit students of their choice is subject to reasonable restrictions.” The said G.O.Ms (Government Order – Manuscript), came into effect from the academic year 2006-07.
As per the said G.O.Ms, minority colleges were granted the right to fill up 85% of their seats through the management quota with students belonging to minority communities. It further mandated that unfilled seats in the 85% management quota be allotted to non-minority students on merit. The petitioners contended that it violated the Article 30(1) of the Constitution which granted minority communities the right to administer their own institutions.
However, a more interesting detail surfaced during the course of the judgment. The Bench, comprising of Justices Indu Malhotra and Sanjiv Khanna, observed that ineligible candidates were converting to minority religions ‘overnight’ in order to gain admission to minority institutions. The order states, “G.O.M. No. 57 prescribed a uniform criteria for determination of the status of all minority students. It safeguards the interest of genuine minority students, so that their seats are not taken away by those who resort to false conversions overnight, for the purpose of securing admission. This would preserve the minority character of the Institution, rather than act as an intrusion of the same.”
The Government of Andhra Pradesh stated in Court that statistical data “revealed that many students were converting overnight so as to obtain admission in the Management Quota of Minority Educational Institutions.” The Court noted that “a large number of admissions were made on the basis of converted certificates. The enquiry conducted revealed that 67 out of 200 students in New College of Education, Nizamabad; 90 out of 136 in Rayalseema College of Education, Kurnool; 82 out of 102 in Bhongir College of Education, Bhongir; 60 out of 85 in Jyoti College of Education, Siricilla; 91 out of 102 in Anebesent College of Education, Khammam; 85 out of 102 in Trinity College of Education, were admitted on the basis of Baptism Certificates.”
The Court further observed, “In most of these cases, the candidates declared themselves to be Christians subsequent to the date of submitting their applications for the Entrance Test.” The Court concluded, “All Minority Educational Institutions in the State of Andhra Pradesh, including the Petitioner Institution, have been following these G.O.Ms since the past over 13 academic years without any complaint. There is no justifiable reason why the same should be discontinued at this stage.”
The Andhra Pradesh government order had issued several provisions to prevent the admission of recently converted students into minority institutions. The order had said that SCC certificate would be taken as a basis of determining the minority status of students, to prevent misuse of Conversion Certificates by ineligible candidates.
Upholding the order to fill up vacant seats by non-minority candidates, the court said that it is based on statistical data showed that the number of colleges, and the seats available for minorities, were highly disproportionate, and far in excess of the population as per the 2001 census. If seats remain vacant, it would not in the interest of the Minority Institutions every year, that is the reason why govt asked to fill those vacant seats with non-minority students from the merit list. This does not interfere with the right of a Minority Educational Institution to manage its affairs for the benefit of the Minority Community, the Supreme Court said. The order says that on the contrary, it ensures that the seats are not wasted.