Reinforcing earlier judicial decisions on the subject of granting minority status for educational institutions, the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) has ruled that once minority status was granted the same will hold good without any restriction period. The Government cannot mandate minority institutions to periodically renew their status.
A division bench comprising Justice N Paul Vasantha Kumar and Justice P Devadass passed the order while disposing of an appeal filed by Jayaraj Annapackiam College for Women (Autonomous), a minority institution administered by the Congregation of Sister of St Anne in Theni district challenging a Higher Education Department Government Order.
The college, affiliated to Mother Teresa Women’s University, was established in 1971 as a minority institution. In an earlier case in1976, the Madras High Court had declared it to be minority institution.
While so, in March 2009, the Higher Education Department issued a GO conferring minority status on the college for a period of five years (2007-12).
Arguing that when the college was founded as a minority institution there was no need for it to periodically renew its status the college secretary had moved the High Court challenging the GO. However, a single judge had refused to entertain the plea citing that a case relating to laying of guidelines for grant of minority status is pending before the Supreme Court.
Hence the college filed an appeal. Appearing for the petitioner-institution, advocate Isaac Mohanlal pointed out that the Apex Court was only hearing a case related to granting of minority status to linguistic minorities and not religious minorities.
Accepting the argument, the judges said GO No 270 of the Higher Education Department states that to decide whether an applicant is a minority or not based on religion or language, the total population of that minority in the State shall be taken into consideration.