Is the Centre obligated to introduce a Uniform Education Code in harmonious construction of Articles 29-30 with Articles 14, 15, 19?’ - with this question at hand, renowned Advocate and BJP leader – Ashwini Upadhyay has recently filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court.
According to the petitioner, Article 29 (Protection of Interest of Minorities) and Article 30 (Right of Minorities to Establish and Administer Educational Institutions) were brought in keeping in view the then situation and after effects of the religious partition in mind. These provisions did not mean to prevent the majority Hindu community from establishing Gurukuls and Vedik Schools of their choice, but only to give the minorities an extra layer of protection in case the State tries to impose a majoritarian viewpoint upon them.
He further states that all citizens should have the right to conserve their language script and culture and the right to establish-administer educational institutions of their choice. Providing this right to minorities alone can hamper the very essence of secularism.
The plea avers that certificates issued by Madrasas and Missionary Schools are equivalent to those issued by State but not Gurukuls-Vedik Schools. Similarly, Gurukuls and Vedic Schools, who are imparting secular and scientific education are not recognized and considered at par with Madarsas and Missionary Schools.
At the same time, many states provide funds to Madrasa-Missionary Schools but not to Gurukuls-Vedik Schools and that students of Gurukul and Vedic School are not considered eligible for government jobs but Students of Madrasas and Missionary Schools are eligible due to the separation of religious education. Noting thus, that universal uniform value-based education is still a distant dream in our country, the plea calles for a Uniform Education Code in line with the provisions of Article 14, 15, 16, and 19 of the constitution.
“Hindus Jains Sikhs Buddhists Jews Bahais have similar rights to conserve their language, script and culture like Muslims Christians Parsis, and State cannot discriminate and abridge this right….Hindus Jains Buddhists Sikhs Jews Bahais have similar rights to establish and administer educational institution of their choice like Muslims Parsis Christians and State cannot discriminate and abridge this right,” it reads.
Other Contentions of the PIL:
The PIL states that although missionary schools assimilate students of all backgrounds/communities but they mix secular scientific education with their religious education. Despite this, they are recognized and funded by Centre/State Governments. On the other hand, Gurukuls-Vedic Schools, who are also imparting secular scientific education are not granted recognition similar to that of Madaras-missionary schools.
“Our Constitution has been misinterpreted to deprive majority community of their cultural and educational rights when compared to their minority counterparts. The sad state of affairs is that while right to education is now a fundamental right under Article 21A, universal education is still a distant dream,” it reads.
The plea further adds, “Our social settings have not developed to the point where universal and uniform value-based education can be ensured for all children in spirit of Articles 21A read with Articles 14, 15, 16, 19. The secondary school dropout rate still stands 17% and as per latest Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE), nearly 30% students don’t transit from secondary to senior secondary. The Centre and States have failed in achieving universal uniform education. So, when autonomy and rights are given to majority community to establish and administer Gurukuls and Vedic schools of their choice, they can help in solving this problem with their resources. Majority Community appeal to larger population of Indian diaspora and with the correct resources, State can ensure education for all.”
In support of the claims, the petitioner quotes Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava who (while moving an amendment to change clause 2 of Article 23) had said, “Now, Sir, it so happens that the words "no) minority" seek to differentiate the minority from the majority, whereas you would be pleased to see that in the Chapter the words of the heading are "cultural and educational rights", so that minority rights as such should not find any place under this section.”
The PIL also notes Dr. Ambedkar’s explanation of the implications of using the term minority in his speech which read as - “The word is used not merely to indicate the minority in the technical sense of the word, it is also used to cover minorities which are not minorities in the technical sense, but which are nonetheless minorities in the cultural and linguistic sense. For instance, for the purposes of this article 23, if a certain number of people from Madras came and settled in Bombay for certain purposes, they would be, although not a minority in the technical sense, cultural minorities.”
Lastly, to support the stated contentions, the plea adaws a nexus between the concept of minority in Europe and the United Kingdom as opposed to that in India. It also takes reliance on the landmark TMA Pai case, and other pertinent precedents to aver that the Supreme Court is entitled to evolve the New Principles of Liability to make the guaranteed remedy to enforce fundamental rights real and effectively and that the power conferred by Article 32 of the Constitution of India is wide and must be used to “forge new tools and device new remedies.”
Prayers of the PIL:
While demanding for a Uniform Education Code in line with the constitutional provisions, the PIL sought direction to declare that Hindus Jains Sikhs Buddhists Jews and Bahais have similar rights to conserve their language, script and culture, and to establish-administer educational institution of their choice like Muslims Christians and Parsis.
It also prayed that the Apex Court shall direct the Centre to recognize Gurukuls and Vedik Schools at par with Madarsas and Missionary Schools and implement Uniform Education Code for them in spirit of Articles 29-30 read with Articles 14, 15, 19; and pass such other order(s) as deemed fit.
The PIL was filed at the Supreme Court on September 24, 2021 and is currently pending for decision.