Government has let AMU down
With the Modi sarkar often facing charges of being against minorities, it has pointed out that Indira Gandhi was also opposed to the university's minority status.
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The Centre recently took the unusual step of not defending a law made by Parliament by withdrawing its petition before the Supreme Court justifying minority status for the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Leaving AMU to fend for itself by distancing itself from the case filed in 2006 during the UPA regime, the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised that though Parliament enacted the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981 with the intent to confer minority status to the university by overriding the 1967 Azeez Basha judgment, it had failed to succeed.
Though the Centre has also quoted from the Constituent Assembly debates to lend strength to its stand that AMU was an institution of national character rather than a minority institution, its affidavit is not convincing as it has neither considered the records favouring the university while dumping the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981 nor referred to the contrary views expressed in the Constituent Assembly.
In its affidavit before the Supreme Court, the Centre has quoted Naziruddin Ahmad stating in the Constituent Assembly that the Benares Hindu University and the Aligarh Muslim University "have been regarded from their very inception as institutions of a national character and importance".
But it not mentioned that taking into account historical facts pertaining to the formation of the university, Muslims always opposed interference into the affairs of the institution.
During the Constituent Assembly debate on November 8, 1948, ZH Lari, a Muslim member, lodged a protest over removal of the head of AMU who "had the confidence of the University Court and of the community to which the institution appertains".
The Centre also quoted Jawaharlal Nehru talking against safeguards to minorities. "If you seek to give safeguards to a minority, you isolate it," Nehru is stated to have said.
But the Centre makes no reference to the fact that the Objectives Resolution moved by Nehru in the Constituent Assembly resolved to provide "adequate safeguards" for minorities.With the NDA government often facing charges of being against minorities, it has pointed out that Indira Gandhi was also opposed to minority status for AMU.
With the NDA government often facing charges of being against minorities, it has pointed out that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was also opposed to minority status for AMU and has also stressed that the Jawaharlal Nehru government introduced an amendment in 1951 aimed at making AMU a mainstream national university.
The affidavit has again omitted the context. While the stand of the present government is conflict with the law enacted by Parliament, Gandhi was justifying the existing law.
In fact, the Centre had opposed minority status for AMU in the Azeez Basha case as well. But the context was different.
Unlike at present, it was defending amendments made by Parliament in 1951 and 1965, abridging the administrative independence of AMU.
The Centre, however, changed its stand later.
The AMU Act was amended in 1981 to confer minority status to AMU.
With the Allahabad High Court striking down the amendment, the Centre and AMU had approached the SC in appeal.
While the Modi government has stated that the amendment could not change the nature of AMU in view of the factual record, it would be wrong to assume that it was a one-sided case.
Among other changes to confer minority status to AMU, the amendment removed the word "establish" from the Preamble to the 1920 AMU Act to recognise the fact that AMU had been established by Muslims and not by the government of India.
The court had accepted government's stand in Azeez Basha that since AMU was established by the 1920 Act, it could not be said to have been established and administered by a minority community. Azeez Basha may not be the final word especially when the 1920 Act had been amended.
Since university can only be constituted by an Act, the argument accepted in Azeez Basha means no minority can establish and administer a university. It also needs to be noted that the long title as well as the Preamble to the 1920 Act refers to "Muslim university at Aligarh" as against the name by which the university was established - Aligarh Muslim University.
The lengthy Preamble further throws light on formation of the institution by referring to assets and rights of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh, and the Muslim University Association.
Probably taking into account these historical facts, the 1920 Act had provided for court of AMU with only Muslim members.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)