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Published in the 16-29 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

By Iqbal A. Ansari

As a member of the Academic Council of the A.M.U I had submitted a proposal in 1986 for changing the admission policy based on internal-external categories, which neither promoted academic excellence, nor took care of the legitimate interests of the Muslim community on an all India basis. Given the definition of the University “as an institution of their choice, established by Muslims of India” tracing its origin to the MAO College, 1877, and given the provision under clause 5(2)(c) empowering the University “to especially promote educational and cultural advancement of Muslims of India”, the University not only enjoyed the protection of article 30(1) of the Constitution, the Parliament had additionally assigned to the University the mission of promoting educational advancement of a backward minority. 

No change has however, been effected in the admission policy of the great seat of learning based on irrational internal-external classification which was taken recourse to during 1960s when secular fear was instilled in Muslim minds and hearts that any community-based quota would be violative of the secular Constitutional order...

I had then argued that given these rights and responsibilities the University should admit Muslim students on the basis of all-India merit and the remaining seats to be filled by non-Muslims including weaker sections. The ratio could vary say, around, 75%-25%, depending upon the availability of meritorious Muslim applicants.

No change has however, been effected in the admission policy of the great seat of learning based on irrational internal-external classification which was taken recourse to during 1960s when secular fear was instilled in Muslim minds and hearts that any community-based quota would be violative of the secular Constitutional order, in spite of the fact that a number of higher courts judgments took it as axiomatic that right to establish and administer included the right to admit students of the community (with a sprinkling of the students of the other community). 

Now the law of the land as interpreted by the Constitutional Bench of eleven judges of the Supreme Court in TMA Pai Foundation Vs State of Kerala 2002 and as further clarified by the Supreme Court in Islamic Academy of Education Vs State of Karnataka (2003), Minority Educational Institutions (MEI), both aided and unaided, have a right to preferentially admit students of their community without any fixed ceiling, depending upon the needs of the community for which they have been established. However the MEI are required to transparently admit students of their community on the basis of their separate merit. Additionally they may make special provision for weaker sections, again transparently and on merit.
It is well that the University has taken the stand that it is a minority institution, enjoying the Constitutional privilege of an institution of national importance, but it cannot justify its policy of preferring a mediocre internal student to a brilliant external student of both minority as well as majority. Such a policy violates the law and ethics and undermines educational standards. The University and its well wishers, including Old Boys and guardians and members of the Court and Executive should not focus exclusive attention on the right of the University to autonomy, but also on how this autonomy has been exercised during the last four decades to the detriment of “all India Muslim interest” as well as for dilution of academic standards.

By classifying applicants as ‘internal’ and ‘external’ merit among Muslim students from distant and/or less affluent sections of the community has been discounted, whereas internal mediocre school and undergraduate students have enjoyed undue protection, stifling competitive spirit in the community as a whole.

The UGC and the Central Government’s case for compulsory centralized entrance tests do not enjoy legitimacy in the light of the Supreme Court judgment, as it is one of the options available to the Government and the University. Even if it goes in for AIEET, for pragmatic considerations based on the best interest of students and academic standards, its modalities should be evolved with due consultation and consent of the concerned University. In such centralized tests provision will have to be made for applicants to state their religious community affiliation and status of backwardness, and the University will have the right (under law) to preferentially admit meritorious Muslim students from the minority list of qualified candidates.

The position of the U.G.C. and the Ministry of HRD is also vulnerable for not having established the Committee headed by a retired judge for supervision of admission process, as required by the law. This Committee will have the right to enhance any fixed quota in particular cases, (as will be justified in the case of AMU) and also will have the power to exempt any old established institution from the purview of centralized admission.

In conclusion it needs to be stated that whereas UGC/MHRD’s assertion of their power of centralization is not wholly legitimate in so far as it disregards conventional norms and legal rights of Universities in general and of MEIs in particular, the assertion of the case of AMU exclusively in terms of autonomy, disregarding consideration of merit among the Muslims, is equally unconvincing.

Let there be a harmonization of the legitimate claims of the Muslims of India, who established the University, and that of student’s financial and other pragmatic considerations.

Note 1: Earlier when I circulated a similar piece through AMU Network a number of senior and young Alig friends expressed approval. However one questioned my integrity under the assumption that I did not pursue this cause, when I was In active service of the University, which is not true. I have been persistently advocating the cause, especially since 1981.
Note 2: Let Alig friends keep in mind that my note deals only with the issue of admission of students. Other sources of low standards of the University including inbreeding and appointment and promotion of teachers and administrative and academic work culture have not therefore been commented upon.

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