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Cultural And Educational Rights Of Minorities

Minorities all over the world religious or linguistic or ethnic have been constitutionally recognised as groups which need special or exclusive rights to be at par with the majority. Indian Constitution is one of the best in the world which provides a detailed catalogue of human rights to every citizen of the country including those belonging to religious and linguistic minorities without any discrimination.

It is in this context, the paper deals with the protection of interests of minorities & their rights to establish and administer the educational institutions. Further, the paper provides insights to better understand the inter-relationship between Article 29 & Article 30 of the Constitution of India. The biggest loophole of this provision is that it does not define the term "minority."Several questions have been raised before the Courts of Law in India whenever the State has failed to provide adequate protection to the minorities including the Article 30 of the Constitution.

The expression "Minority" has been derived from the Latin word "minor‟ and the suffix "ity‟ which means "small in number". According to Encyclopaedia Britannica "minorities" means "groups held together by ties of common descent, language of religious faith and feeling different in these respects from the majority of the inhabitants of a given political entity" "The whole object of conferring the right on minorities under article 30 is to ensure that there will be equality between the majority and the minority. If the minorities do not have such special protection they will be denied equality".[1]

Hence no laws can be framed to discriminate against them with regard to establish & administer their educational institutions. Article 30 is a special right conferred on the religious and linguistic minorities because of their numerical handicapness and to instill in them a sense of confidence. While upholding these rights, the Supreme Court has in the TMA Pai case endorsed that there should be no reverse discrimination and opined that:
"the essence of Article 30(1) is to ensure equal treatment between the majority and minority institutions. No one type or category of institution should be disfavoured or, for that matter, receive more favourable treatment than another. Laws of the land, including rules and regulations, must apply equally to the majority institutions as well as to the minority institutions."[2]

All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.[(1A) In making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of any educational institution established and administered by a minority, referred to in clause (1), the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under the clause]

The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language. From the careful perusal of both Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution, it is found that these rights are provided to the minorities to conserve their cultural and religious values. But unfortunately, the biggest hurdle in the process of implementing these rights depends on defining the term, minorities.

Inter-relation between the two Articles 29 & 30 The Article 29 and Article 30 are grouped under the category of "Cultural & Educational Rights". Both of them protect and guarantee certain collective rights to minorities to protect their language, religion, culture and provide them a sense of security.

Together, They Confer Four Distinct Rights On Minorities:
  1. Right to conserve their own language, script or culture.
  2. Right to all religious and linguistic minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  3. Right of an educational institution against discrimination by State in the matter of State aid (on the ground that it is under the management of religious or linguistic minority).
  4. Right of the citizen against denial of admission to any State maintained or State-aided educational institution.

The interrelationship between Article 29(2) and 30(1) has been the subject of controversy in a plethora of cases. Some author calls this relationship as paradoxical generating confusions like; can minority education institutions deny admission to any student on the basis of religion or language? Whether in admission to minority educational institutions, preference can be given to minority students, overruling the criteria of merit?

The Supreme Court looking into these issues in St. Stephen‟s College vs. University of Delhi 5 case held that the purpose of Article 30(1) does not mean that the minority can establish any educational institution for the benefit of their own communities. The right provided to them is not for their exclusive benefit. [3]The Court observed that "Every educational institution irrespective of community to which it belongs is a melting-pot‟ in our national life and therefore it is necessary that there should be a proper mix of students of different communities in all educational institutions and that the students and teachers are critical ingredients and they should develop respect for and tolerance of, the cultures and belief of others.

The Court further opined that the minority institutions shall make available at least 50% of the admission seats to members of other communities other than the minorities. It is to be noted that the above opinion of Supreme Court is not in line with the constitutional provisions. Therefore realising this, the Supreme Court in TMA Pai case opined that since the rigid percentage cannot be stipulated, therefore the authorities can stipulate reasonable percentage in accordance to the type of institution, population and educational needs of the minorities. It can be concluded that the Courts have attempted to strike a balance between these two articles Article 29 and Article 30, when confronted with the question of interrelationship.

  • Thamarasseri, I. (2014). Minority Education, New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House Pvt. Ltd. pg.9.
  • Mollah, K. and Bera, S. (2018). Status of Muslim Education in India: Problems and Concerns, Aarhat Multidisciplinary International Education Research Journal, Vol. VII Issue No.1 (Dec-Jan) pg.214.
  • 13. Singh, M.P. and Shukla, V.N. (2008). Constitution of India, Eastern Book Company, New Delhi. pg 263-264.

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