NEW DELHI: A petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the Gauhati High Court verdict upholding the validity of a 2020 law under which all government-funded provincialised madrassas are to be converted into general schools in Assam.
The high court had on February 4 this year upheld the validity of the Assam Repealing Act, 2020.
The petitioners have also sought a stay on the operation of the high court judgement pending the disposal of their plea by the apex court.
The Act repealed the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation) Act, 1995, and the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation of Services of Employees and Reorganization of Madrassa Educational Institutions) Act, 2018.
The petition filed in the apex court by 13 individuals from Assam claimed that the 2020 Act takes away property and statutory recognition of madrassa education and is violative of Article 30 of the Constitution that gives all minorities, whether based on religion or language, the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
The plea, filed through advocate Adeel Ahmed, alleged that the high court has erroneously held that the Assam Madrassa Education (Provincialisation) Act, 1995 converted the madrassa institutions covered under it into government institutions and as such, it cannot be said that such madrassas are either established or administered by a minority.
It said the 1995 Act merely provided for the government to take over the liabilities for payment of salaries, including all consequential benefits, to the employees, both teaching and non-teaching, working against a regularly sanctioned post.
"The mere receipt of aid by madrassas in the form of provincialisation of the services of its employees under the Act of 1995...cannot be ground to disentitle madrassas from exercising their rights under Article 30 of the Constitution to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice," the petition argued.
"The repealing Act of 2020 takes away property coupled with statutory recognition of madrassa education and the impugned order dated February 12, 2021 issued by the Governor disbands the 'Assam State Madrasa Board' created in 1954," it said.
The plea alleged that it amounted to an arbitrary exercise of both legislative and executive powers and a denial of the madrassas' ability to continue providing religious instruction coupled with religious education.
"It is submitted that such an encroachment into the proprietary rights of the petitioner madrassas without payment of adequate compensation is a direct infraction of Article 30(1A) of the Constitution of India," it said.
Article 30(1), it says, allows them to establish' and administer' educational institutions of their choice inclusive of the right to decide their own curriculum which may also be based on their perception of ways to preserve their religion or culture.
It said the principal secretary of the secondary education department had, through a notification on February 12, 2021, issued several instructions including on converting madrassas into high schools and bringing them under the State Education Board.
The Assam Repeal Bill was passed by the state Assembly on December 30, 2020, under which all the provincialised, government-funded Madrassas were to be transformed into general schools.