In the judgment upholding the validity of National Eligibility cum Entrance Examination for admission to medical and dental courses, the Supreme Court re-stated the principles governing minority educational institutions under Article 30 of the Constitution of India.
In the case Christian Medical College, Vellore vs Union of India, a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and M R Shah noted that the right conferred on the religious and linguistic minorities to administer educational institutions of their choice is not an "absolute right". This right is not free from regulation.
Quoting from 11-judge bench decision in T.M.A. Pai Foundation, (2002) 8 SCC 481, the judgment noted that the right to establish and administer broadly comprises the following rights:
The State can prescribe regulations to ensure the excellence of the institution. Regulation made in the real interests of efficiency of instruction, discipline, health, sanitation, morality, public order, and the like may undoubtedly be imposed. Such regulations are not restrictive on the substance of the right, which is guaranteed, they secure the proper functioning of the institution in the matter of education (In Re The Kerala Education Bill, 1957, AIR 1958 SC 956).
So long as the basic right of minorities to manage educational institution is not taken away, the State is competent to make regulatory legislation. Regulations, however, shall not have the effect of depriving the right of minorities to educate their children in their own institution (St. Stephen's College vs. University of Delhi, (1992) 1 SCC 558)
"In the field of administration it is not reasonable to claim that minority institutions will have complete autonomy. Checks on the administration may be necessary in order to ensure that the administration is efficient and sound and will serve the academic needs of the institution", the judgment quoted from the precedent Ahmedabad St. Xavier's College Society and Anr. v. State of Gujarat and Anr., (1974) 1 SCC 717.
In the St.Xavier's case, it was also observed that regulation must satisfy a dual test :
It was also emphasized in the case that the minority institutions cannot be allowed to fall below the standards of excellence expected of educational institutions, or under the guise of exclusive right of management, to decline to follow the general pattern. The right to administer cannot include the right to mal-administer.
It was further held that held that minority institutions have a right to admit students of their choice subject to reasonable restriction for the academic qualification and the regulation, which will serve the interest of the students, can be imposed for ensuring efficiency and fairness.
In TMA Pai, the Court held:
"The unaided minority institutions under Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India have the right to admit students, but the merit may be determined by common entrance test and the rights under Article 30(1) is not absolute so as to prevent the Government from making any regulations.
It is open to State/concerned bodies to frame regulations with respect to affiliation and recognition, to provide a proper academic atmosphere".
In P.A. Inamdar and Ors. v. State of Maharashtra and Ors., (2005) 6 SCC 537, the Court observed that Article 30 of the Constitution does not come in the way of the State stepping in for the purpose of securing transparency and recognition of merit in the matter of admissions, and the conditions of recognition are binding on such institutions.
Based on these precedents, the bench observed that
"The rights of the religious or linguistic minorities under Article 30 are not in conflict with other parts of the Constitution. Balancing the rights is constitutional intendment in the national and more enormous public interest".
With respect to NEET, the Court observed that it was a "regulatory measures intended for the proper functioning of institutions and to ensure that the standard of education is maintained".
"The regulatory measures by prescribing NEET is to bring the education within the realm of charity which character it has lost. It intends to weed out evils from the system and various malpractices which decayed the system. The regulatory measures in no way interfere with the rights to administer the institution by the religious or linguistic minorities"
"The rights to administer an institution under Article 30 of the Constitution are not above the law and other Constitutional provisions. Reasonable regulatory measures can be provided without violating such rights available under Article 30 of the Constitution to administer an institution. Professional educational institutions constitute a class by themselves. Specific measures to make the administration of such institutions transparent can be imposed".
"There is no right given to maladminister the education derogatory to the national interest", added the Court.
The Court held that a uniform entrance test qualifies the "test of proportionality and is reasonable".
"NEET is intended to check several maladies which crept into medical education, to prevent capitation fee by admitting students which are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education. The institution has to be a capable vehicle of education", Justice Arun Mishra wrote for the bench.
The Court concluded that the rights available under Article 30 are not violated by provisions carved out in Section 10D of the MCI Act and the Dentists Act and Regulations framed by MCI/DCI.
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