A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna, today, February 12, 2019 referred to a seven-judge bench, a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court’s judgment dated December 22, 2005 quashing the minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
A three-judge bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi & Justices L Nageswara Rao & Sajiv Khanna after hearing sr advocate Rajeev Dhavan on for AMU & AG on behalf of Union of India ordered to place the matter before the CJI on administrative side to list it before a seven-judge bench. https://t.co/h8K5RNywlQ
— The Leaflet (@TheLeaflet_in) February 12, 2019
Appearing for the AMU, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan sought reference to the larger bench to decide the bunch of petition pending in the Supreme Court since 2006. He disputed the correctness of the five-judge bench decision dated October 20, 1967 of Supreme Court in Azeez Basha v. Union of India wherein the SC held AMU not to be a minority institution.
On other hand, Attorney General (AG) for India K K Venugopal on behalf of the Union of India stressed on the Azeez Basha judgment. He, however, at the same time submitted that if the matter needed to refer to the larger bench, issues needed to be decided for referring to larger bench. Either we would give the issues, or court may formulate on its own and referred to larger bench.
After hearing, both the parties, the Court proceeded to refer the batch of appeals to a seven-judge Constitution bench deciding the issue of AMU’s minority character.
AMU and the then Central government had approached the Supreme Court way back in 2006 challenging High Court’s decision that took away the minority status of the AMU. A division bench of the Allahabad High Court comprising the then Chief Justice Ajoy Nath Ray and Justice Ashok Bhushan (now the judge of the Supreme Court) had mainly relied upon the decision of a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Azeez Basha, and declared AMU to have always been and is a free institution and not a minority institution within the meaning of Article 30 of the Constitution.
Further, the Allahabad High Court had also held that the claim of 50% Mohammedan quota for the post graduate medical courses by the University was unconstitutional and impermissible and they shall make no claim of minority quota in like or other manner in future. Additionally, High Court had also struck down sections 2 (l) and 5 (2) (c) introduced in the Aligarh Muslim University Act of 1920 by the said 1981 Amendment Act .
On the appeal preferred by the AMU and others, the Supreme Court on April 24, 2006 recorded in its order as follows:
“Learned counsel for the appellant-University undertakes that they will not implement 50% quota reservation for admission. As regards all other matters regarding appellant institution, status quo will be maintained from the filing of the writ petition before the High Court.
The question raised in these appeals are of general importance. It is desirable that the matter be considered by a larger Bench. Office shall place t he matters before Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India for further directions”.
As clear from the above order, the Supreme Court did not grant any stay order on the Allahabad High Court’s judgment delivered on December 22, 2005.
After the BJP government came in power at Centre in 2014, the Centre government in 2016 reversed its stand and decided to withdraw its appeal filed in 2006 against Allahabad High Court’s order, and submitted before the Supreme Court’s that in ruling of the Apex Court in Azeez Basha case is a good law.
After SC’s order passed today, now the appeals claiming for minority status will be placed before the CJI on the administrative side to list them before a seven-judge bench for the authoritative determination of the issue whether AMU is a minority institution.
The story will be updated once order is uploaded on the Court’s website.