In an important judgment, the Supreme Court has held the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) has the power to decide minority status of an already existing educational institution and all applications for the establishment of a minority educational institution after the Amendment Act of 2006 must go only to the competent authority set up under the statute.
NCMEI has the power to decide any question that might arise, which relate directly or indirectly, with respect to the status of an institution as a minority educational institution.
As per Section 11 of the Act, NCMEI could declare an establishment as a minority educational institution “at all stages.”
Only the Commission has the power to decide on granting a ‘no objection’ certificate to an institution that wanted to convert into a minority institution.
The Calcutta HC had held that NCMEI had no original jurisdiction to declare the minority status. Other high courts had also taken the contradictory stand on the power of the Commission in granting minority status to educational institutions. Besides Calcutta HC, Bombay HC and Punjab & Haryana HC have also taken the view that the Commission had no original power to decide on minority status. On the other hand, the Allahabad HC had held that Commission had jurisdiction to decide the issue.
The NCMEI Act empowers the Commission “to decide all questions relating to the status of an institution as a minority educational institution and to declare its status as such.”
The significance of the judgment:
The Constitution grants a fundamental right to all minorities, whether based on religion or language, to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The wide power is given to an independent forum like the NCMEI to declare an institution as a minority educational institution furthered the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 30.
The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions was set up in 2004. The Government brought out an Ordinance in November 2004 establishing the Commission. Later a Bill was introduced in the Parliament in December 2004 and both Houses passed the Bill.
The Commission is mandated to look into specific complaints regarding deprivation or violation of rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
The Commission is a quasi-judicial body and has been endowed with the powers of a Civil Court.
It is to be headed by a Chairman who has been a Judge of the High Court and three members are to be nominated by Central Government.
The Commission has 3 roles namely adjudicatory function, advisory function and recommendatory powers.
So far as an affiliation of a minority educational institution to a university is concerned, the decision of the Commission would be final.
The Commission has powers to advise the Central Government or any State Government on any question relating to the education of minorities that may be referred to it.
The Commission can make recommendations to the Central Government and the State Governments regarding any matter which directly or indirectly deprives the minority community of their educational rights enshrined in Article