Private schools should desist from religious education: Kerala High Court

Shaju Philip
Private schools should desist from religious education: Kerala HC

Kerala High Court upheld the closure of a school in the state capital which admitted only Muslim students.

The Kerala High Court on Friday directed the state government’s general education department to direct all recognised private schools in the state to desist from imparting religious instruction or religious studies without the government’s permission.

Upholding the closure of a school in the state capital which admitted only Muslim students, the bench of Justice A Muhamed Mustaque observed that the school imparted religious instruction exclusively following Islamic religion and that cannot be permitted.

“Constitutional rights to the minorities to run educational institutions do not extend to dilute secular nature of education,’’ the bench said.

“Since it offends the very fabric of the secular society, the government is justified in ordering closure of the school,’’ said the judge, asking the education department to issue an order to all recognised schools not to give religious lessons without the government’s permission.

The petitioner was Hidaya Educational and Charitable Trust in Thiruvananthapuram. The state government had ordered the school’s closure following a police report that it had only Muslim students and the syllabus was in accordance with the curriculum prescribed by Millet Foundation Education Research and Development. The court order describes the foundation as a common platform for Muslim educational institutions to complement the effort to achieve excellence in education within the boundaries of Islamic Shariah.

The judge observed, “Constitution accords special protection to the minorities under Article 25, Article 29 and Article 30. The right to establish and administer educational institutions under Article 30 would also include the right to choice of education, subject to any restriction imposed under law. However, these rights do not extend to dilute the secular nature of education. These rights cannot override the basic values of the Constitution,” said the court.

The judge said the recognition for a school that is required from the state government under the Right to Education Act is for imparting secular education. Exclusivism or preference of one religion over others by state or public functionaries or private bodies, while discharging public functions, strikes at the very root of the fundamental values of our Constitution, namely, secularism, he added.