SC refers issue of AMU minority status to bigger bench

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi referred the matter to the larger bench for defining the parameters for grant of minority status to educational institutions. (PTI File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday referred to a seven-judge bench to determine if Aligarh Muslim University, a central university, can remain as a minority institution.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna posted the matter before a larger bench as the NDA government had decided withdraw an appeal filed by the erstwhile UPA government challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict holding the Aligarh Muslim University as non-minority institution.

The court, however, ordered that the status quo on the matter would remain in operation with the varsity granting 50% reservations to Muslims.

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 (1968) held it as a "central universitry" and not a minority institution.

However, an amendment was brought in 1981 to accord the university minority status which was held as unconstitutional by the High Court.

The High Court had in January 2006 struck down the provision of the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981.

The division bench of the High Court had upheld the decision of its single judge passed in 2005 by which it termed as "unconstitutional" the granting of minority status to AMU and 50 per cent reservation to Muslims.

On Tuesday, the top court noted since the previous judgement on character of the AMU was dealt by a five-judge bench, it was appropriate to place the matter before a larger bench of seven-judge.

The present government maintained that AMU was not a minority university. “As the executive government at the Centre, we can't be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state,” it had said.

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