New Delhi | The NDA government yesterday went back on the UPA government’s stance favouring minority institution tag to Aligarh Muslim University, telling the Supreme Court that such a status would over ride the verdict of a constitution bench that held it as a central university.
The Narendra Modi Goverenment said it would not support the AMU in challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict holding the University as a non-minority institution against which an appeal was also filed by the Manmohan Singh regime in 2006 in the apex court.
The Centre said it has not only changed its mind on the issue but was also distancing itself from the AMU in withdrawing its appeal. I changed my mind two months ago, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a three-judge bench headed by Justice J S Kehar about the Centre’s decision to withdraw the appeal and distance itself from AMU, which has sought to counter it. I am distancing myself from the AMU, he further told the bench, also comprising Justices M B Lokur and C Nagappan.
He submitted that the AMU was set up by a central Act and in 1967, a five-judge constitution bench of the apex court had in Aziz Basha judgement held it as a central university and not a minority institution.
Rohatgi said 20 years later, an amendment was brought in 1981 to accord the university minority status which was held as unconstitutional by the High Court. You cannot override the Aziz Basha judgement. Union of India’s stand is that according minority status to AMU would be contrary to the Aziz Basha judgement and it still holds good, the top law officer told the bench which permitted the Centre to file an application along with an affidavit within eight weeks to withdraw the appeal filed by it.
The bench said the AMU, which was represented by senior advocate P P Rao, can file a counter-affidavit to the Centre’s stand and posted the matter for hearing after the summer vacation.
The apex court also allowed some intervenors, for whom senior advocate Salman Khurshid appeared, to assist in the matter. The High Court had in January 2006 struck down the provision of the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981 by which the University was accorded a minority status.
The division bench of the High Court had upheld a 2005 decision of its single judge by which it termed as unconstitutional the grant of minority status to AMU and providing 50 per cent reservation to Muslims in 2004.
The issue of AMU’s minority status had cropped up before another bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur which was hearing a separate matter relating to the challenge of appointment of its Vice Chancellor Lt General (retd) Zameeruddin Shah. Can a university itself be termed as a minority institution, the bench, also comprising Justice U U Lalit, asked during the hearing.