D.A.V. College Etc v. State Of Punjab

Read this judgement to find out the Supreme Court's take on the question of minorities' rights to administer educational institutions and giving directions on the topic.
CITATION1971 AIR 1737
COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice P.J. Reddy
DATE OF JUDGEMENT05.05.1971

Introduction

DAV College vs. The State of Punjab is a five-judge Constitution Bench judgment delivered by the Apex Court on the question of the rights of minorities to administer educational institutions under Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India and its interface with Article 29(1).

Facts

The facts of the case are as follows: The Petitioners in the case are the various educational institutes affiliated with the Dayanand Anglo Vedic College Society, a Trust registered under the Society Registrations Act. The Petitioner colleges are affiliated to the Punjab University that was founded in 1961. However, after the reorganization of the State of Punjab, the State Legislature enacted an Act in 1969 to establish a University to commemorate the 500th birth anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Devji. As a result of the said Act, the Petitioner colleges that were till now affiliated to the Punjab University ceased to be so and were in turn deemed to be affiliated to the new University. It was the apprehension of the Petitioners that Punjabi would be made the sole medium of instruction for imparting knowledge in all disciplines of the affiliate colleges. As a result, the legislative Act was sought to be challenged by the Petitioners.

Issues

The main issue that arose in the present case was with respect to the interpretation of a religious or linguistic minority under Articles 29(1) and 30(1) and the determination of Petitioners’ status vis-à-vis the same.

Summary of court decision and judgment

In the case, the teachings on the life of Guru Nanak Devji were seen as permissible since the same only meant educating the masses about the life and values of the great saint.

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Analysis

The court began by analyzing the interplay between Articles 29(1) that provides the right to preserve any distinct language, script or culture and 30(1) that entails then right of linguistic or religious minorities to establish and administer educational institutions. It made the following observations in this regard:

  1. The scope of Article 29(1) is wider than that of Article 30(1) as the former includes both minorities and non-minorities while the latter is only confined to minorities based on religion and language.
  2. A minority availing right under Article 30(1) need not necessarily be a religious and linguistic minority as the Article uses the word “or”.
  3. It was also concluded that on a combined reading of the two Articles, a religious minority has a right to establish an educational institution to specifically conserve its distinct language, script, or culture. However, it also held that the two Articles are not interlinked and can be read separately.
  4. The court subsequently held that Arya Samajis constitute a religious minority in the state of Punjab even while the same might not be the case at the national level. Also, it was further observed that they have a distinct script called the Devanagri script owing to which they are entitled to the rights enshrined under Article 29(1) of the Indian Constitution.
  5. However, on analysis of the facts of the case at hand, the court concluded that Section 4 (2) of the impugned Act made provisions for study and research on the life and teachings of Guru Nanak Devji. The same does not, in any way, affect the rights of Petitioners under Article 29(1) ads the language of the said provision does not imply that the same has to be compulsorily undertaken by the affiliate colleges and universities.
  6. One of the contentions of the petitioners was that the compulsory affiliation to the University apart from affecting their rights under Articles 29 and 30 also infringed their right to association guaranteed under Article 19(1) (c). The court did not find any merit in the argument as it was of the view that the compulsory affiliation does not in any way affect the right of the DAV Trust to form associations.
  7. Lastly, the petition was partly allowed as the court held that a clause providing for the approval of the Vice-Chancellor for the appointment of college staff was violative of the Petitioners’ right to administer the educational institute.
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It is thus seen that the court rightly makes a distinction between religious instruction and religious education by holding that while the former violates the rights enshrined under Article 29 of the Indian Constitution, the latter is permissible. In the case, the teachings on the life of Guru Nanak Devji were seen as permissible since the same only meant educating the masses about the life and values of the great saint. However, it is to be noted that there is a very thin line of division between religious instruction and education and the court failed to demarcate the same.

Conclusion

The decision of the court is based on sound reasons and supported by precedents. It rightfully held that the reorganization of states on the ground of language is a reality and the same entails the right of the concerned State or University to provide education in the medium of the regional language. The case seeks to balance this with the countervailing interests with respect to the preservation of minority language and script by holding that the rights of the majority under Articles 25 to 28 cannot stifle the rights of the minority under Articles 29 and 30. However, it does not lay down any binding precedent on the issue of determination of a religious or a linguistic minority apart from reiterating the existing position on the same.