Who has the power to grant minority status to educational institution? Supreme Court to decide

The Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court of India will decide whether the National Commission for Minority Education Institution (Commission) has the power to grant ‘minority status’ to an educational institution.

A Bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy today issued notice in an appeal filed by the Commission against a judgment of the Calcutta High Court. Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde appeared for Commission.

The crux of the matter is the interpretation of Sections 10, 11(f) and 12 of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act, 2004 (Act). The main issue is whether the Commission is empowered under the Act to grant ‘minority status’ to education institutions or whether its powers are merely appellate in nature.

A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court held that the powers of the Commission are appellate in nature and that it does not have the original jurisdiction to decide questions relating to status of an institution as a ‘minority institution’. It held that the said power instead, is vested with “Competent Authority” appointed by the State under the Act.

The petitioner has contended that the High Court confused the power of the Competent Authority to grant of NOC with the power to actually recognise an institution as ‘minority institution’.

“The Hon’ble High Court returned the fallacious finding since it confused itself regarding the grant of “NOC” by the Competent Authority with that of declaration ‘minority status’ by the Commission. This distinction existing in the Act was erroneously found blurred by the High Court….”

It is the petitioner’s contention that the power of the Competent Authority is limited to granting NOC to a new educational institution.

“…beyond that it cannot proceed and declare whether an institution is Minority institution or not. Post NOC, it is the function and power of the Commission to give a declaration the effect that it is a Minority Institution…

Thus, the correct position of law is that the scope of power given to Competent Authority under Section 10 is very limited to granting NOC ….whereas it is the function of the Commission as per Section 11(f) of the Act to declare and grant minority status….”

The Commission has also relied on the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in the case of NCMEI v. Abhinav Sewa Sansthan and the judgment of the Supreme Court in Governing Body of PAEM College v. State of Jharkhand to buttress its case.

The Court issued notice in the matter. The matter is likely to be listed after six weeks.