News: 1981 amendment does a half-hearted job: SC reserves verdict on AMU minority tag.

The Supreme Court ruling on AMU minority status triggered nationwide protests from Muslims. In response, political authorities yielded in 1981 and introduced an amendment to the AMU Act, explicitly affirming its minority status.

About AMU:

● AMU’s origins can be traced back to the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental (MOA) College, established by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in 1875.
● The primary aim was to help Muslims overcome educational backwardness and prepare for government services.
● MOA not only imparted Western education but also emphasised Islamic theology. Sir Syed also advocated for women’s education.
● In 1920, the institution was conferred university status through an Act of the Indian Legislative Council; this transition elevated the MOA College to become Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
● The university inherited all the assets and functions of the MOA College. The official title of the AMU Act was “An Act to incorporate a teaching and residential Muslim University at Aligarh.”

Origin of the dispute:

  • The legal dispute over AMU’s minority status dates back to 1967 when the Supreme Court (in S. Azeez Basha and another versus Union of India) was reviewing changes made in 1951 and 1965 to the AMU Act of 1920.
  • These amendments affected how the university was run. For instance, originally, the 1920 Act said that the Governor General of India would be the head of the University. But in 1951, they changed it to replace ‘Lord Rector’ with ‘Visitor,’ and this Visitor would be the President of India.

S Azeez Basha v/s Union of India Case:

  • In 1967, in S Azeez Basha v Union of India, the Supreme Court held that AMU was “established” through the enactment of a law, the Aligarh Muslim University Act, 1920.
  • This meant, according to the court, that AMU does not qualify for minority status as it was not established by the Muslim community.

AMU Act of 1981:

  • The amendment introduced Section 2(l) and Subsection 5(2)(c), which stated that the university was “an educational institution of their choice established by the Muslims of India” and “subsequently incorporated” as the AMU.
  • This introduced multiple provisions stating that the university was established by the Muslim community, and explicitly highlighting the need to promote the cultural and educational advancement of Muslims in India.
  • However, this amendment was struck down by the Allahabad HC in 2005 which held that AMU was not a minority institution as per Azeez Basha. They also held that the 1981 amendment was enacted in order to override the Azeez Basha decision.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India states “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
  • However, the SC stated that Article 30 of the Constitution is not to “ghettoise the minority”.

Significance of the ruling:

  • From the petitioner stance, Article 30 does not mandate that the administration must only be in the hands of the minority community “in a sense that the personnel who administer are not required by Article 30 to belong to the minority.
  • The court’s current hearing is crucial in determining the minority status of AMU since it is a matter interwoven with education and secular rights.
  • Implications of Minority rights, educational and secular matters stand in a single string which needs to be addressed by greater strength constitutional bench to avoid recursive hearings could pacify through balanced verdict.


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