Stringent norms for minority institutes set to plug loopholes

Stringent norms for minority institutes set to plug loopholes

New Delhi: A quasi-judicial panel set up by the ministry of human resource development is tightening norms to curb the practice of educational institutions seeking minority status simply to escape a legal provision to reserve seats for the other backward classes, or OBCs.

The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) is finalising the norms that would bind institutions to admit a fixed percentage of students from the minority community concerned. It will also make the grant of minority status more stringent by mandating authentication of documents submitted by institutions.

“The commission has the mandate to check abuse and misuse of the educational rights of the minorities enshrined under Article 30 of the Indian Constitution," said M.S.A. Siddiqui, chairman of the NCMEI. “We have received complaints that institutions were misusing the minority status to just escape the quotas and not acting to benefit students from their community."

“Even as the minority tag exempted them from implementing all kinds of quotas, including the recently introduced reservation for the other backward classes, many were found to be admitting students from non-minority communities in large numbers. So, we felt the need for comprehensive guidelines to stop the abuse and misuse of privileges granted to a minority institution," he said.

The guidelines are expected to be final by November-end.

Under the NCMEI Act, an institution must be established and run by a religious minority—Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians—to qualify for the minority status. Under the commission’s rules, it must admit minority students under a “prescribed percentage governing admissions". But no rules governing this percentage actually exist, allowing the institutions a free hand in deciding admissions and fee structures.

Until the extension of quotas to OBCs, many of these institutions voluntarily admitted students both from the general and scheduled caste/scheduled tribe categories, while favouring admissions for their own communities. However, after the Supreme Court’s decision in April approving 27% reservation in higher education institutions for OBC students, the NCMEI was flooded with applications seeking minority status—some 600 till September, as reported by Mint earlier.

Minority institutions are exempt from implementing all quotas which leaves these institutions, and the trusts that often run them, free to formulate their own admission rules.

“This has led to corruption and put students from the minority community at a disadvantage. The new guidelines would make sure that the community for which the institution has sought the status gets opportunities in education," Siddiqui said.

The NCMEI has issued 1,537 minority certificates since 2006, out of which 771 were granted in 2007. Just 35 were granted in 2005. It expects the numbers to go down once the norms are tightened. “We need a foolproof system where we can identify deserving applicants and not be misled by documents submitted," he said.