Appointment of Principal in Minority Institution: Need for Judicial Review?

The Constitution of India provides for rights of and protection of Minority Interests through various ways one of it being the establishment of Minority Institutions. The question lies whether this right of minority communities can be used to arbitrarily appoint authorities in such institutions and if yes, can it be judicially reviewed? Read more to know the answers and much more!

Who is regarded as a minority community?

Any section of the citizens having a distinct language, script or culture constitutes a group of minorities as per the constitutional scheme. The minority community refers to a group of individuals who are particularly smaller as compared to the majority in a defined area and categorically marked different from the rest of the population. The smaller section of the people that differs from the larger population of a territory on the basis of their religion or ethnicity is considered to be the group of minorities.

What is considered to be a minority institution?

Section 2(g) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004 provides that the minority educational institution means a college or an institution set up, governed, regulated and administered by a person or a class of persons from amongst the minorities. It must be found for the purpose of the benefit of a minority community by a member of that community itself and must cater to the needs of the minority community. It shall observe the general laws of the land with regard to the educational institutions.

The institution which has been established to serve and uphold the interests of the minority community is deemed to be a minority institution. It must be facilitated with an efficient staff and management so as to sub serve or advance the purpose of its establishment.

Rights and Privileges of Minorities

In order to achieve unity and integrity of the country and to combat all the fears as well as apprehensions of the minority communities, Articles 29 and 30 have been enshrined in the constitution to safeguard and protect the minorities against the cultural hegemony of the dominant groups in the society[1]. Fundamental Rights granted to the minority communities:

  • Article 29 provides for the protection of the interests of minorities;
  • Article 30 provides for the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.
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The general principles and regulations relating to the establishment and administration of the educational institution by minorities are as follows[2]:

  • The rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions as per their own choice is subject to the regulatory powers of the state in order to maintain the excellence of the educational standard;
  • The minority institutions have the right to choose the adequate governing or managing body which would conduct the affairs of the educational institutions and the laws of the state must not interfere with its administrative control and management;
  • The minority institutions have the right to appoint and employ the concerned teaching and non-teaching staff.

The minority institutions exercise autonomy in their administration and management which cannot be hampered by the interference of the statutory authorities so it would effectively serve the need of their community. The right of the minority to establish and administer educational institutions of its own cannot be whittled down by any administrative agency nor could the regulations made by the state impinge upon the minority character of the institution[3].

Judicial Intervention to seek fairness

Judicial interference becomes necessary at times in order to ensure that the rights of the minority institutions must not be arbitrary or fanciful. There must be a consistent endeavor by the courts to assure the constitutional obligation to protect the rights of minorities under Article 30 of the constitution as well as the social necessity to defend the members of the staff against despotic and dictatorial treatment.

The issue related to the just and fair appointment of managerial personnel in the minority institution has been manifested in the following case:

In the present case of Mrs. Ivy C. da. Conceicao vs. State of Goa & Ors.[4], a person junior to the appellant was appointed to the post of Principal of a minority institution.

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The contention made by the appellant was that the minority institution must consider the eligible candidates to be appointed to the post of Principal. The right of autonomy granted to the minority institution does not empower them to act arbitrarily and cannot set aside the rights of the eligible candidate to be treated on the basis of equality and merit.

The respondent argued that the minority institution had an exclusive power to appoint a person as principal but the selection of that person for the post of principal is not confined on the basis of seniority and thus the claim made by the appellant entitled to be disregarded.

The Apex Court held that the process of the appointment of a principal in a minority institution is open to judicial review. The Court said that the exercise of the right to choose must be fair, impartial, and coherent. The autonomy of a minority institution does not do away with the requirement to act in a justified and transparent manner and thus it is open to the High Court to scrutinize the process of selection in the minorities institution in the light of fairness and rationality in the exercise of the powers of the judicial review under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution[5].

Conclusion

The selection and appointment of teachers are imperative in the management of the minorities institutions. The right to appoint the Principal or the Headmaster of an educational institution plays a vital role in the administration of the institution. The persons of proven ability and experience must be appointed so as to maintain discipline and efficiency of teaching. The freedom of the minority institution to choose the personnel must be equated with the fair play and reasonableness. The institutional rights’ to appoint the principal must conform to the norms of fairness in order to attain educational excellence and to maintain the academic standard. In order to strike a balance between the rights of minorities to administer educational institutions and the claim of the eligible candidates to be appointed must be dealt with sufficient guidance to see that the members of the management and staff must not be arbitrarily treated or innocently victimized.

Also read Pramati Educational & Cultural Trust & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.


[1] Gargi, ‘Separate Domain’ of Minority Rights under Article 29 & 30 of the Constitution of India and its Judicial Interpretation at http://ujala.uk.gov.in/files/gargi.pdf

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[2] P.A. Inamdar vs. State of Mahrashtra, 2005 (6) SCC 537

[3] Government Of India National Commission For Minority Educational Institutions, Guidelines for determination of Minority Status, Recognition, Affiliation and related matters in respect of Minority Educational Institutions under the Constitution of India at Ncmei.gov.in.,http://ncmei.gov.in/WriteReadData/LINKS/e1bd5603d1-cd8b-4a4b-8969-f3597beb34fa99c0e645-cbca-4250-a6a8-f2df33e0cf21.pdf

[4] Civil Appeal No. 1257 of 2017

[5] Prachi, “Process of appointment of Principal in Minority Institution is open to Judicial Review”, SSC Online Blog (Feb.1,2017) at http://blog.scconline.com/post/2017/02/01/process-of-appointment-of-principal-in-minority-institution-is-open-to-judicial-review/