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January 09, 2020 Thursday 04:00:35 PM IST

Equality Shall Prevail

Guest Column

Should minority institutions be given the privilege of reserving certain seats for a denomination or a community within their religion for admission to educational institutions run by them? This is being examined by the Supreme Court on the basis of writ petitions filed by Christian managements.

The Division Bench of the Kerala High Court had ruled that providing reservation to a denomination or a community within a religion was against Article 30 (1) of the Constitution that gives rights to all minorities to establish educational institutions of their choice on the basis of religion or language. The 'Community Quota' followed by Christian managements which run schools and colleges in Kerala allowed religious heads to certify certain candidates belonging to a denomination of their religion to get reservation in admission. In certain cases, yet another sub classification had been adopted.  Such seats were set apart exclusively for the children of the respective dioceses.  A few seats were being reserved for the denomination, to the dioceses concerned, to all categories of Christians, a few to Dalit Christians – and as far as Medical Institutions were concerned, a few seats were reserved for the clergy (priests and nuns).The system had the acceptance of the State Government and statutory authorities all these years.

An issue cropped up when managements of a few Muslim Medical Colleges approached the Hon'ble Kerala High Court seeking the same privilege that Christian institutions enjoy with respect to reservations for religious denominations. The Court held that Constitution does not contemplate a sub classification among a communityfor the purpose of Article 30(1).  All candidates within a community should be eligible to be considered at par, with all other candidates belonging to various denominations and sects within that community. In a Muslim institution, all Muslim candidates should be treated at par.  The Court also directed that eligibility / community certificates should be issued by the Revenue authorities.

The Christian managements were not party to this case but they also filed review petitions which were dismissed by Kerala High Court. Now the case is pending before the Supreme Court based on writ petitions filed by Christian managements and posted for hearing in January 2020. If the Kerala High Court ruling is upheld, it can have far reaching consequences not only for admissions to various courses but also in appointments to various posts in minority institutions. In schools, there is no “Community quota” for appointments.  But in aided Colleges, 50% of the vacancies among the teaching staff are set apart for Community quota. Such reservations shall become null and void.

Adv Jose Kannanthanam

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