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A three judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the position of law on minority status of educational institutions, as taken by Justice TS Thakur who had referred the matter to a larger bench due to split verdict of the Division bench.

The appointments of two teachers in Khalsa Girls High School were blocked by State authorities citing that they were not made with the sanction of the School Service Commission (SSC) established under the Rules for Management of Recognised Non-Government Institutions (Aided and Unaided), 1969 (1969 Rules). Aggrieved by the decision, the two teachers moved the Calcutta High Court in 2003. While the Single Judge then had upheld their minority status in 2004, the appeals and split verdict delayed the affirmation of the same by 15 years.

Supreme Court said that Article 30 is a Fundamental right and it cannot be waived. Thus, they are entitled to claim minority status. It further held that a declaration is not required as to status of the minority institutions by the competent authority under the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education Act, 1963.

It was held that Rule 28 of the Rules for Management of Recognized Non-Government Institutions (Aided and Unaided) 1969, cannot possibly apply as there would be a serious infraction of the right to administer the institution with teachers of its choice.

The apex court in N. Ammad v. Emjay High School (1998) had held, “a school which is otherwise a minority school would continue to be so whether the Government declared it as such or not. Declaration by the Government is at best only a recognition of an existing fact… It is an open acceptance of a legal character which should necessarily have existed antecedent to such declaration.” Same was reiterated in Corporate Educational Agency v. James Mathew (2017).

Court also observed, “There can be no doubt that qua the State of West Bengal, Sikhs are a linguistic minority vis-à-vis their language, namely, Punjabi, as against the majority language of the State, which is Bengali. The argument of the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the State that the school is, in fact, teaching in the Hindi medium is neither here nor there. What is important is that the fundamental right under Article 30 refers to the “establishment” of the school as a linguistic minority institution which we have seen is very clearly the case, given paragraphs 5(a) and 5(b) of letter dated 19th April, 1976. Therefore, the medium of instruction, whether it be Hindi, English, Bengali or some other language would be wholly irrelevant to discover as to whether the said school was founded by a linguistic minority for the purpose of imparting education to members of its community. This argument also, therefore, must be rejected.”

–India Legal Bureau

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