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Govt-funded Madrasas Turned Into Schools: High Court’s Final Decision

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Govt-funded Madrasas will be turned into regular schools. The Gauhati high court on Friday upheld an Assam government legislation converting Govt-funded madrasas to regular schools, stating that such state-funded institutions can’t impart religious instructions.

While dismissing a petition challenging the government move, a division bench comprising chief justice Sudhanshu Dhulia and justice Soumitra Saikia stated, “We uphold the validity of the Assam Repealing Act, 2020 and the subsequent orders and communication of the (Assam) government,”

Last year in January, the state assembly had passed the Assam Repealing Act, 2020. The Act repealed two legislations: Madrasa Education Provincialisation Act, 1955 and Assam Madrasa Education Act, 2018.

The move converted 189 high Govt-funded madrasas and higher secondary madrasas under the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA) and Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC) into regular schools.

Govt-funded Madrasas Excluding the Private Ones

As many as 542 pre-senior, senior and title Govt-funded madrasas and Arabic colleges under the State Madrasa Education Board were also dissolved. The move didn’t affect private madrasas that don’t operate with government funding.

The move was challenged in high court (HC) by 13 petitioners alleging that the government decision amounted to an invasion of their fundamental rights.

Challenging the petition, Assam advocate general Debajit Saikia argued that though the Govt-funded madrasas in question may have been established by a religious minority community, but since they were provincialized (brought under government funding and rules) in 1995-96, they stopped being administered by the minority community and therefore couldn’t be allowed to impart religious instructions.

Saikia also informed the court that not only state-funded madrasas have been closed in Assam but a similar action was taken in case of Sanskrit ‘tols’ (schools) where religious teachings were imparted in Sanskrit. Saikia stated the government has been “religiously neutral” in that regard.

“Students who come out of Govt-funded madrasas are unlikely to get admission in professional courses and in higher studies and therefore largely remain unemployed. So, it was decided to change subjects in these institutions from religious instructions to general subjects,” he said.

Govt-funded Madrasas turn into schools decision by Court

The court held that Clause (1) or Article 28 of the Constitution prohibits religious instruction in an educational institution which is wholly maintained out of state funds.

“We must make a clear distinction between religious instructions and religious studies or even religious education. Whereas ‘religious instruction’ has a very restrictive meaning, religious education or religious studies are much wider terms,” the court observed.

“Let us not forget these educational institutions are government institutions. It is not a grant-in-aid school. The entire salary of teaching and non-teaching staff of these provincialized madrasas come from state exchequer,” it added.

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