Religious and linguistic minorities do enjoy a constitutional right to establish and administer educational institutions but that does not mean medical and engineering seats surrendered by them to the government pool should also be filled up only by students from the specific minority communities concerned, the Madras High Court has held.
Justice G. Jayachandran rejected the argument that the minority character of the institutions would get changed if non-minority students were admitted in large numbers under the government quota. Accepting such a fallacious argument would amount to “wholesale” reservation of seats in educational institutions run by the minorities, he said.
Though Article 30 of the Constitution gives right to the minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, Article 29 protects all citizens, and not just minorities, from being discriminated on the ground of religion, caste, race or language, the judge pointed out and dismissed a batch of writ petitions filed by medical seat aspirants.
Seven Telugu-speaking minority residents of Puducherry approached the court with individual writ petitions seeking admission in Sri Venkateshwara Medical College Hospital and Research Centre in the Union Territory under the 55 seats that had been surrendered to the government out of the sanctioned annual intake of 150 students.
They had relied on the Supreme Court judgment in Dar-Us-Salam Educational Trust versus Medical Council of India (2017) to support their contention that only a sprinkling number of non-minorities could be admitted in minority institutions and therefore even government quota seats in such institutes should be filled with minority students.
The petitioners also argued that allotting seats in a minority institution to non-minority students would infringe upon the constitutional protection accorded to such institutions and amount to “nationalising” them. It was further contended that the reservation policy of the State would have no application with respect to minority institutions.
However, the judge pointed out that the 2017 verdict was delivered in a completely different context of admitting students in minority institutions under the All India quota and the State quota. A careful reading of the judgment would clearly indicate that the State quota should be filled up as per merit and the reservation roaster.
“It is fallacious to argue that even if an institution shares seats voluntarily with the State government, the petitioners, as a minority, shall have a say on who should be educated under the minority institution. This will go contra to the spirit of the Constitution. Therefore, for this reason also, the contention of the petitioners is untenable,” he added.
The judge quoted former Supreme Court judge V.R. Krishna Iyer, who once said: “The first caution is that reservation must be kept in check by the demands of competence. You cannot extend the shelter of reservation where minimum qualifications are absent. Similarly, all the best talent cannot be completely excluded by wholesale reservation.”