Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Supreme Court upholds validity of W.B. Madrasah Service Commission Act

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The Supreme Court has held that there is no absolute and unqualified right of appointment for minority institutions, thus upholding the constitutional validity of West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and UU Lalit set aside the Calcutta High Court verdict which had held the legislation unconstitutional. In the larger interest, however, the apex court said that the appointments made till now by the madrasa management committees shall also remain valid.

The 2008 Act was passed for the purpose of recruitment of Teachers including Headmasters/Headmistresses of recognised non-Government aided Jr. High/High/Higher Secondary and Senior Madrasahs in West Bengal. Later, the recruitment of non-teaching staff including Librarians was also entrusted with the Commission by amendment of the Act.

The Calcutta High Court had held Sections 8, 10, 11 and 12 of the 2008 Act ultra vires the Constitution in so far as it violated the rights of the minorities guaranteed under Article 30 of the Constitution.

The apex court relied on the seven-judge bench decision in P.A. Inamdar and others v. State of Maharashtra (2005), which though was on the question of student admission and not teacher appointment, had a pertinent point of national interest made in it. Court said, “The discussion in that case shows that the admissions based on merit in professional educational institutions were found to be in the national interest and strengthening the national welfare.”

With regard to invoking Article 30 against the 2008 Act, the apex court discussed the ratio in Malankara Syrian Catholic College case (2007), stating, “the right conferred on minorities under Article 30 was only to ensure equality with majority and was not intended to place the minorities in a more advantageous position vis-à-vis the majority and that there was no reverse discrimination in favour of minorities and that the general laws of the land relating to national interest, would equally apply to minority institutions.”

An eleven-judge bench in TMA Pai Foundation case (2002) had laid down the principle that rules and regulations would apply equally to the majority institutions as well as to the minority institutions in so far as they further national interest. Thus, if any regulations seek to ensure the standard of excellence of the institutions while preserving the right of the minorities to establish and administer their educational institutions, such regulations would not violate minority rights under Article 30(1).

The apex court thus upheld the nominations made under the 2008 Act declaring the competency of the Service Commission to select teachers for the institutions, while also validating the appointments made till now by various Madrasahs.

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