New Delhi: With the NDA government contending that no institution can have both a minority status and be a central university, academicians stood divided over the move to revoke the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia.
While some academicians said that the "minority tag" restricted certain sections of the society from having smooth access to higher education, others said it will not only infringe on the right of the Muslims but will also be against the Constitution.
"There is a provision in the Constitution about minority character being granted to institutions and it must be upheld," Jamia Vice Chancellor Talat Ahmad told PTI.
He, however, did not comment on the possibility of Jamia's minority tag being withdrawn.
"I have not heard anything from the government in this regard. I cannot comment before I hear from them in context of Jamia," he said.
S K Sopory, former JNU Vice Chancellor, said, "Minority tag or not is a different issue but the primary objective should be that accessibility to higher education should not be restricted. There is already adequate reservation in central universities. Giving them a minority status indeed restricts the benefit to any particular section."
"The Supreme Court in similar cases has not ruled out possibility of a central university being a minority institution. It has merely said that from the provisions of the 1920 Act of AMU Act, it is unclear whether it is a minority institution," said Faizan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.
Mustafa argued, "The apex court has consistently held in a number of cases that minority institutions cannot be taken over by the government. There can be no nationalisation of minority universities".
Attorney-General Mukul Rohtagi had told the government in January this year that Jamia is not a minority institution as it was created by an Act of Parliament, days after he had told the Supreme Court that the legislature never intended the Aligarh Muslim University to be a minority institution.
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 override the verdict of a Constitution Bench that held it as a central university.
AMU spokesperson Rahat Abrar, when contacted, said, "It will not be wise to comment since the matter is sub-judice, but we have faith in judiciary that the minority status will be upheld."
"When both the universities are enjoying the status of central university, how can they claim themselves as minority institutions? Under the garb of the minority tag, institutions receive funding left right and centre and their benefits are restricted to certain sections," a JNU professor said.