Sunday, Mar 31, 2002
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By J. Venkatesan
This is the second time in over 30 years that a 11-Judge Bench has been constituted. It will decide important questions of law relating to the ``minorities'', ``religion'' and ``education''.
Though a 11-Judge Bench was set up during the tenure of the former Chief Justice, M.M. Punchhi, it was disbanded half-way through before it could complete the assigned task.
The Bench headed by B.N. Kirpal will take up the issues which include, among other things the meaning of ``minorities'' and the ``minority educational institution'' (MEI) and what is the indicia to determine whether an educational institution is a MEI;
Whether the decision of the apex court in `St. Stephens case' that Article 30 clothes a MEI with the power to admit students by adopting its own method of selection and that the State or the affiliating university has now power to regulate admission of students to such MEI even while permitting the MEI to admit students belonging to the relevant minority to the extent of 50 per cent of its intake capacity is correct;
Where a religious or linguistic minority in State `A' establishes an educational institution in that State, can members of the religious/linguistic group in State `B' claim rights flowing from Article 30 (1) in respect of the institution established in State `A';
Whether it would be correct to say that only the members of that minority residing in State `A' will be treated as members of the minority vis-a-vis such institution; and what is the meaning of `language' in Article 30 (1)?
Does it include a language which is not included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
Another important aspect to be examined by the Bench is whether the guidelines laid down in the `Unnikrishnan case' in respect of `free' and `payment' seats needed a re-look.
The Tamil Nadu Government has suggested that 75 per cent of the seats should be allowed to be filled by government under `free' seats and 25 per cent under NRI/Management seats. It has suggested that the separate status for the minority institutions permitting them to admit 50 per cent of students on their own may be abolished as many MEIs are falsely claiming to be minority institutions only with a view to gaining the advantage of 50 per cent admissions on their own.
A similar request has been made by Maharashtra. Karnataka, has however, suggested 80:20 ratio for `free' and `NRI' seats.
A batch of petitions from certain Deemed Universities in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka questioning the jurisdiction of the States to interfere in the admission of students is also before the 11-Judge Bench.
Earlier this month, a three-Judge Bench while directing the University Grants Commission or an agency appointed by it to conduct an all India common entrance examination for admission of students for the year 2002-2003 had referred the matter to a larger Bench.
According to senior lawyers, indications are that the 11-Judge Bench while deciding the questions referred to it may post individual matters before appropriate Benches for deciding them on merit in tune with the guidelines laid down.
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