New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions had the power to grant an academic organisation the “valid” and binding status of a minority institute.
A bench of Justices A.K. Goel and R.F. Nariman set aside a ruling by Calcutta High Court, which had said the status the NCMEI had granted to a north Bengal college was not valid as it had not been approved by the “competent authority”.
“Insofar as existing minority institutions are concerned, Section 11(f) (of the NCMEI Act) clearly confers jurisdiction on the NCMEI to issue a certificate regarding the status of the minority educational institution,” the top court said on an appeal filed by the college society of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny.
“The appeal is, accordingly, allowed and the judgment of the Calcutta High Court is set aside. The order… and the certificate… (issued by the NCMEI) are declared to be valid in law,” the bench added.
The college in Kalimpong had been set up in the 1990s with the aim of providing secular education. In 2007, the college society moved the NCMEI for minority status.
On October 23 that year, the commission passed an order declaring the women’s college as a minority educational institution. Two days later, the NCMEI issued a minority status certificate.
In September 2008, the registrar, University of North Bengal, filed an application for cancelling the certificate. The NCMEI dismissed the application in November 2009.
The university moved the high court and a single-judge bench ruled that the NCMEI could not grant minority status to the institution and the certificate was invalid. A division bench upheld the ruling, prompting the college society to move the top court.
Justice Nariman said Section 11(f) was a “very wide provision which empowers the NCMEI to decide ‘all questions’ relating to the status of an institution as a minority educational institution and to declare its status as such”.