Grant of minority sector by educational institute is valid

Merely because minority status is accorded to educational institutions run by a society, it cannot be regarded as being established for benefit of a particular religious community; registration cannot be denied on this ground

• Sections 11 and 12 could be taken into consideration for purpose of grant or otherwise of registration under section 12AA inasmuch as it impinges on its public character. Notwithstanding registration granted under section 12AA, no benefit under sections 11 and 12 can be allowed in view of an abiding feature of a society's constitution or its inherent nature

HELD

• To be identified as an educational institution of the minorities, there should be a nexus between the institution and the particular minority to which it claims to be belonging. How could, otherwise, one may ask, it claim to be established for the benefit of the minority community, entitled to the protection guaranteed under article 30(1) of the Constitution, seeking to enshrine the right to serve and promote minority interest? A prescription of a standard or uniform percentage governing admissions may not, however, necessarily serve the purpose, which is to seek non-minority representation to a reasonable extent, while at the same time ensuring that the minority character of the institution is not annihilated, and the right engrafted under article 29(2) not subverted. What is, therefore, required is a balance between the two objectives – the preservation of the rights of the minority to admit the students of their community and that of admissions of 'outsiders' without disturbing the minority character. This balance, however, may not be specified in terms of a fixed percentage, which has to take into account the population as well as the educational needs of the area in which the educational institution is located, variables which are also subject to change with time(refer pgs. 8, 9 of the impugned order). The situation, as it appears, thus, is in a state of flux, though the position in law is clear, with the state governments empowered to prescribe the percentage, and which could be revised or changed from time to time.

• Clearly, thus, a right to regulate admission thereto is an important right of a minority institution. However, we do not find the same expressed in the charter of the assessee-society; there being no reference to any percentage or any restriction or mandate in respect thereof in its 'Aims and Objects'. Whatever implication this may have for its status as a minority institution, we can hardly countenance or subscribe to a proposition which, despite there being nothing either in its memorandum of association (object clause) or its conduct, sanctions a presumption that it is established for the benefit of the minority (Muslim) community, solely on the basis of it being granted the status of minority educational institution – the only restriction in its charter being toward its membership extending only to the members of the said community. If the institution has, by admitting 90 per cent non-minority (non-muslim) students, violated any specific provision or guideline in the matter and, accordingly, stands to lose its minority status, of which we have no clue, so be it. And which again does not help the revenue's case in any manner; rather, only goes against it. Though, therefore, appearing anomalous in-as-much as the minority status implies an inherent right to serve the minority interest, a finding to it being set up or established for the benefit of a particular (Muslim) community cannot be a matter of presumption and rendered de hors any material on record. The answer, as we understand, lies in the complete freedom allowed in the matter of admissions to unaided MEIs up to the undergraduate level as per the decisions by the Apex Court. Why, NCMEI, on similar facts, i.e., a low percentage of minority/s students in an educational institution established by the minorities, granted minority status to a school, holding that the criterion of fixation of a percentage governing admission of a minority community in a MEI cannot be included in the indicia for determining the minority status of such an Institution (Buckley Primary School vs. The Principal Secretary, Government of Orissa in Case No. 1320 of 2009 dated 06.07.2010/APB-I pgs. 103-129). Further, even where reserving such a right, the same may not necessarily translate into a high ratio of minority (muslim) students, for which other practical considerations may be responsible. That no such right stands reserved in the present case only fortifies the assessee's case. Why, yet, it stands granted a minority status, we wonder, which may or may not be the Revenue's concern. There is no claim by it of such status having been granted on account of any mis-representation, or as to the assessee having derived any benefit through misrepresentation. The same may be relevant inasmuch as the genuineness of the activities is a parameter which is to be examined by the competent authority while deciding on registration, even as the allegation cannot be lightly made, and would require being substantiated for it to be taken cognizance of. Notwithstanding, therefore, even if a minority status is accorded to educational institutions run by a society, it cannot be regarded as being established for benefit of a particular religious community. Even though the relevant provision (sec. 13(1)(b)) provides for exclusion of ss. 11 and 12 of the Act, the same could well be taken into consideration for the purpose of grant or otherwise of registration under section 12AA inasmuch as it impinges on its public character. What, we are unable to comprehend, effect or purpose the registration would have where, notwithstanding the same, no benefit under sections 11 and 12 can be allowed in view of an abiding feature of a society's constitution or its' inherent nature.
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