Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India provides for linguistic and religious minorities a fundamental right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Bill, 2004 was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and received the assent of the Hon’ble President. It came on the Statute Book as THE NATIONAL COMMISSION FOR MINORITY EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS ACT, 2004 (2 of 2005).
The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) Act has been enacted to safeguard the educational rights of the minorities enshrined in Article 30(1) of the Constitution. The Commission is a quasi judicial body and has been endowed with the powers of a Civil Court for the purpose of discharging its functions under the Act. The commission has three main roles namely adjudicatory, advisory and recommendatory.
Powers of the Commission
Powers of the Commission includes deciding all questions relating to the status of any institution as a Minority Educational Institution (MEI). It also serves as an appellate authority in respect of disputes pertaining to Minority Status/ No Objection Certificate (NOC). Educational institutions aggrieved by the order of refusal to grant Minority Status Certificate/No Objection Certificate by the competent authority of State/UT, can appeal to the Commission against such orders. The Commission has the power to cancel the minority status of an educational institution granted by an Authority or Commission, on grounds laid down in the Act.
The Commission also has powers to call for information while enquiring into the complaints of violation or deprivation of the educational rights of the minorities. Where an enquiry establishes violation or deprivation of educational rights of the minorities, the Commission may recommend to the concerned Government or authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings or such other action against the concerned person or persons as it may deemed fit.
As per the judgment of Hon’ble Apex Court in the matter of Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny v/s The State of West Bengal and Ors. (2018) 6 SCC 772, this Commission has both original as well as appellate jurisdiction.
Parliamentary paramountcy has been provided for by Articles 246 and 254 of the Constitution. In view of the mandate of these Articles of the Constitution, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004, being a Central law shall prevail over the State law. The State Government cannot add, alter or amend any provision of the Act by issuing executive instructions.
No court (except the Supreme Court and a High Court exercising jurisdiction under articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution) shall entertain any suit, application or other proceedings in respect of any order made by the Commission.
No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Central Government, Commission, Chairperson, Members, Secretary or any officer or other employee of the Commission for anything which is done in good faith or intended to be done under the NCMEI Act.
The provisions of NCMEI Act 2004 shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the NCMEI Act 2004.
Minorities in the Country
The term “Minority” is not defined in the Indian Constitution. However, the Constitution recognises religious and linguistic minorities. The Central Government has notified six religious minority communities viz. Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi and Jain.
Minority Educational Institutions can approach NCMEI
- For obtaining Minority Status Certificate (MSC).
- For appeal against State authorities on being aggrieved by the order of rejection of NOC application by the State/UT (Section 12A) or refusal to grant minority status certificate (Section 12 B).
- Resolving disputes regarding affiliation/deprivation and violation of rights of minorities to establish and administer the institutions of their choice.