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How can an army officer be the VC? asks SC bench
NEW DELHI : On September 19 the Supreme Court asked Aligarh Muslim University to explain how it could appoint a retired army officer as its vice-chancellor when UGC regulations say only a "distinguished" academic can head central varsities.

Hearing the case the bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur asked a straight question: "You are a central university. You have a vice-chancellor. He must be a distinguished academician with 10 years' experience. Your vice-chancellor does not satisfy the requirement. How can he continue?"

The bench said higher education regulator UGC's Regulations 2010 "mandatorily" applied to all central universities, including AMU.

The AMU is headed by Retired Lt Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah who is the university vice-chancellor.

"The regulations make it compulsory for the VC to possess certain academic qualifications, saying he or she must be a distinguished academician. How can a retired army officer or a police officer be the head of a central university?" the bench asked senior advocates Raju Ramachandran and Salman Khursheed who were appearing for AMU.

Ramachandran said the "UGC has the power to regulate the appointment of teachers, not the VC, who is essentially an administrator".

Khursheed said under UGC rules, even if there had been a breach, the effect would only be stopping of grants.

But counsel Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for Abrar Ahmed, an AMU alumnus who has challenged Shah's appointment, said it should be quashed. Ahmed had moved the apex court after Allahabad High Court rejected his plea to remove Shah.

Bhushan, who cited an earlier apex court ruling, said the UGC regulations applied to all central universities. The bench, which also included Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, agreed, saying: "If there are regulations and applicable to a central university, then the VC has to be appointed as per the scheme that says he must be an outstanding academician."

The next hearing is on September 26.

The AMU embroglio
By Rajiv Shukla
The Aligarh Muslim University suffers from the
chicken or the egg dilemma and that's what Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur meant when he wondered whether a central university could be a minority institution?

According to the UGC Act a  "university" means a University established by an act of Parliament or a state assembly. Now a university, like the AMU, which has been established by an act of Parliament cannot be said to have been established by the minority. This is the riddle glaringly pointed out in the Azeez Basha case.

The 5 judge bench ruled in Azeez Basha case that : "The Article 30 in our opinion clearly shows that the minority will have the right to administer educational institutions of their choice provided they have established them, but not otherwise. The words "establish and administer" in the Article 30 of the constitution of India must be read conjunctively and so read, it gives the right to the minority to administer an educational institution provided it has been established by it."

The NDA government added another twist to the story, as pointed out by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi on January 11 and again on April 4.

He told the bench of Justices J S Khehar, C Nagappan M Y Eqbal and  hearing Aligarh Muslim University vs Naresh Agarwal & others that "we can't be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state."



 Seven judge bench to review AMU minority issue

By Rajiv Shukla

NEW DELHI: On February 12 a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi decided to review the famous Azeez Basha case that had firmly held that the Aligarh Muslim University was not a minority institution.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna referred the matter to the larger bench of seven judges on the request of Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal and senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan who pleaded on behalf of the AMU.

In Azeez Basha vs Union of India case a five-judge bench had, in 1968, ruled that AMU was neither established nor was being maintained by the Muslim minorities hence could not be given the status of a minority institution. A review of a five judge bench, therefore, required a larger bench.

The CJI’s bench made the reference when AMU’s appeal against a 2006 Allahabad High Court verdict came up for hearing before it. The HC had struck down provisions of an amendment made in 1981 to the law governing AMU, restoring the university’s minority status circumventing the Azeez Basha case judgement.

In Azeez Basha case, the five judge bench had held that since AMU was established through a parliamentary legislation, it could not be deemed to have been established by an individual or a community. Therefore, the court ruled, AMU cannot be accorded minority status as provided under Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution.

However, 20 years later, in 1981 the then Education Minister Sheela Kaul moved an amendment to the AMU Act to remove the technicalities that prevented the university from being declared a minority institution.

In February 2005 a notification was issued permitting AMU, as a minority institution, to reserve 50 per cent seats for Muslim students during admissions.

The notification was challenged in the Allahabad high court, which in January 2006, quashed it. The High Court even struck down sections 2(L) and 5(2)(C) of the Aligarh Muslim University (Amendment) Act, 1981 which granted minority institution status to the university. The court said the sections were ultra vires of the Constitution.

Both AMU and the Centre had approached the top court in appeal. But in a U-turn, the NDA government in July 2016 withdrew its appeal and relied on the Azeez Basha judgement. The then Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi, submitted that the Azeez Basha case judgement could not be overridden and that according minority status to AMU would be contrary to the verdict. Rohatgi said the ruling still holds good.

An affidavit was subsequently filed withdrawing the Centre’s appeal and also all letters issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development under the United Progressive Alliance regime. “This letter, along with any other letter issued from the MHRD supporting the minority status of the AMU, may be treated as withdrawn,” the affidavit had read. The AMU opposed the Centre’s move to withdraw itself from the case.

AMU case : Govt withdraws appeall

NEW DELHI: On July 6, 2017 the Central government formally withdrew its appeal in the Supreme Court against an Allahabad High Court judgement striking down minority status to Aligarh Muslim University.

The appeal (CA 2286/2006) filed in the Supreme Court by the previous Congress-led government that had sought to retain the minority tag for the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

The Union government also withdrew all letters issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) under the UPA regime allowing the AMU to reserve 50% of its seats for Muslims in the faculty of medicine.

“This letter along with any other letter issued from the MHRD supporting the minority status of the AMU may be treated as withdrawn,” read a government affidavit filed in Aligarh Muslim University vs Naresh Agarwal & others case in the apex court.

The NDA government which came to power two years ago had, from the very beginning, made its intention clear about AMU's status. It said it stood by the 2005 Allahabad High Court judgement, a decision that both the AMU and the previous UPA government had appealed against in the Supreme Court. Wednesday's affidavit sought to withdraw the Civil Appeal 2286 of 2016 in Aligarh Muslim University vs Naresh Agarwal & others case.

The outcome of the case could also set a judicial precedent for a similar legal battle in the Delhi High Court over the status for the Jamia Milia Islamia University, which was declared a minority institution during the UPA government in 2011.

The BJP government argues that granting AMU minority status is in violation of the Constitution which does not permit a secular India to set up and fund institutions on religious lines.

In its affidavit, the BJP government quoted former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — who had told Parliament during a debate in 1972 that “if this demand (minority status to AMU) is conceded, the government cannot resist similar demands from other minorities, religious as well as linguistics.”


In 2006, the UPA government and AMU appealed against an Allahabad High Court judgement that struck down a 1981 parliamentary amendment to grant the university minority status. The amendment circumvented a 1967 SC ruling which said that the AMU was not a minority institution as it was set up by the Central government and not the Muslims.

“No judgment of a court can be undone by Parliament and/ or any legislature passing a law merely undoing consequences of the said judgment. That would amount to abrogation of judicial power by the legislature and would be contrary to the very structure of the Constitution,” the government told the top court.

Once the government takes back its appeal, the top court will be left with AMU’s petition to decide. The three-judge SC bench hearing the case has already allowed the varsity to respond to the government stand and permitted fresh interventions in the case.

When the case comes up for hearing later this month, the bench is likely to refer the matter to a constitution bench.

During a hearing of the case in April, CJI TS Thakur had wondered if a central university could be a minority institution. “We can understand a college or school being a minority institution,” CJI Thakur had said.

No 'minority status' to AMU, govt tells Apex Court
On April 4, 2017 the Attorney General told the Supreme Court in no uncertain terms that the NDA government wants to withdraw the "minority status" granted to Aligarh MuslimStudents praying at Aligarh Muslim University on Ed occasion. University.

Making his submission, orally though, before two separate benches hearing two different cases, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the Apex Court that the minority status would be "contrary to the country's secular policy".

He reiterated the government stand, taken earlier on January 11 before the 3 judge bench in Aligarh Muslim University vs Naresh Agarwal & others in Civil Appeal No 2286/2006, that the government could not be seen as setting up a minority institution in a “secular state”.

Mukul Rohatgi's impromptu statement was made before the bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice U.U. Lalit in a case filed by Abrar Ahmed, an alumni of AMU, who had challenged the appointment of vice-chancellor Zameerudin Shah on the ground that the VC had no academic background and was only a retired army officer.

Rohatgi who was present in the court of the Chief Justice in connection with some other matter made an impromptu statement that the Centre wants to withdraw the institution's minority status.

In his brief submission before the CJI's bench, Rohatgi said that the matter relating to the minority status of AMU was already under consideration of the bench headed by Justice Khehar (in Aligarh Muslim University vs Naresh Agarwal & others in Civil Appreal No 2286/2006) and suggested that the question of Shah's appointment be referred to the same bench. He told the court that in 1967 a five-judge constitution bench had in the Azeez Basha case held that AMU was not a minority institution, but in 1981 the then Union Government had amended the rules to grant it that status.

"Azeez Basha continues to be the law of the land. We have taken a considered view. Azeez Basha holds the position. We have decided to withdraw the appeal," Rohatgi told the bench of Justice Thakur.

Rohatgi said : “We have taken a conscious decision to withdraw the appeal but AMU is entitled to carry on with its appeal.”  The CJI wondered whether a central university could be a minority institution. “We can understand a college or school being a minority institution,” justice Thakur said.

Meanwhile in Aligarh Muslim University vs Naresh Agarwal & others, the three-judge bench headed by Justice J.S. Khehar said that it would hear in July the dispute relating to the minority status for AMU that the UPA government wanted to continue, but the NDA government wants to scrap.

In 2005, the Allahabad High Court had struck down AMU's minority status, a decision that both the AMU and the previous UPA government had appealed against in the apex court. The NDA government that has since come to power wants to withdraw the appeal filed by the UPA government.

Earlier, counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for Abrar Ahmed questioned vice-chancellor Zameerudin Shah's appointment on the ground that he lacked the eligibility criteria laid down in the UGC guidelines.

Bhushan argued that the Allahabad High Court on October 16, 2015, had erroneously refused to quash the 2012 appointment of Shah. The vice-chancellor, a retired lieutenant-general, did not fulfil the criteria that he should have worked for at least 10 years as a professor in a university or an equivalent post in a research or academic institute.

The bench directed the Centre to respond and asked the Attorney General to assist the court. It posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.

The bench headed by Justice Khehar allowed the Centre to file an application for withdrawing the UPA government's appeal against the Allahabad High Court order.

"This matter should also go before a seven-judge bench," Rohatgi told the bench of Justice Khehar as he recalled that the 1967 judgment of the apex court  in Azeez Basha case was delivered by a 5-judge Constitution bench. The present three-judge bench cannot review the judgment passed by a 5-judge bench and, hence, the matter should be referred to a seven-judge bench, he said. Justice Khehar said it would consider the plea in July.

Another senior advocate, Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for petitioner who supports minority status for the institution, agreed that the matter be referred to a seven-judge bench for authoritative pronouncement.

Senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for AMU, sought permission to file a counter affidavit to oppose the NDA government's move to withdraw the UPA's appeal.

If declared a minority institution, AMU need not reserve seats for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes.

Appeal to PM

It may be recalled that a five member delegation from the Aligarh Muslim University, led by Vice Chancellor Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah, had met the Prime Minister on March 5 seeking his support to the cause of AMU as aA delegation from Aligarh Muslim University led by the Vice Chancellor, Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah calls on the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi in New Delhi on March 5, 2016. minority institution.

The delegation met the Prime Minister following mediation by a close Modi aide Zafar Yunus Sareshwala, Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad who arranged the meeting.

At the 40-minute meeting, Vice-Chancellor, Lt.Gen. (Retd) Zameer Uddin Shah raised the issue of the minority character of the university while seeking Mr. Modi’s support in the legal battle to preserve its status.

He raised the issue of off-campus centres of the university in Kerala at Malappuram , West Bengal (Murshidabad) and Bihar (Kishanganj), after HRD Minister Smriti Irani told a ministerial delegation from Kerala that the Ministry would not financially support those centres as they were “illegally” established.

“Lt.Gen. Shah informed the Prime Minister [that] these Centres had been approved by the highest policy-making bodies: AMU Executive Council, University Court, Government of India and the President of India, in his capacity as the Visitor of the university,” Rahat Abrar, university spokesperson, told this correspondent. Lt.Gen. Shah said the BJP had supported the minority character of the AMU when it contested the Lok Sabha elections in 1977 on the manifesto of the Janata Party. The manifesto said, “A consensus on the restoration of the autonomy and original character of the Aligarh Muslim University, which had been gradually impaired by previous governments.”

Lt.Gen. Shah particularly mentioned the Union government's U-turn with Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi submitting in the Supreme Court that the stand taken by the previous government was wrong. The five-member delegation, which included the Vice-Chancellor, urged the Prime Minister that the government must revert to its original stand of supporting the minority character of the AMU.

The Vice-Chancellor handed over a memorandum, which said the Centre had sanctioned “Rs. 447 crore” for the off-campus centres. Against this, the university has been given a meagre Rs. 130 crore. He said the AMU was being given less funds than Banaras Hindu University, which is of equal size, and Jamia Millia Islamia, which is half the size.


Ever since the BJP government came to power at the Centre, Aligarh Muslim University has been feeling cold-shouldered by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The university which has got used to being the darling successive Congress governments, particularly so during Indira Gandhi's prime ministership and Arjun Singh's HRD ministership got a major shock on January 11 this year.

Appearing in a well-watched case (Aligarh Muslim University Vs. Naresh Agarwal & Ors. C.A. No. 2286/2006), Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi told a Supreme Court bench of Justices J S Khehar, M Y Eqbal and C Nagappan on January 11, 2016 :  "It is the stand of the Union of India that AMU is not a minority university. As the executive government at the Centre, we can't be seen as setting up a minority institution in a secular state."

Rohatgi said though the Centre had filed an appeal, it was now inclined to withdraw it as it felt that the Azeez Basha case judgment still held good and that the AMU could not be termed a minority institution since it was set up under an Act of Parliament.

The AG's stand drew immediate reaction from Justice Eqbal, who asked, "Is the change of stand because of change in the government at the Centre?"

Rohatgi said, "The previous stand was wrong. The law laid down in Azeez Basha case by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on October 20, 1967 still holds good.


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