States asked to set floor for minority institutions

States asked to set floor for minority institutions

New Delhi: Educational institutions in India run by minority community organizations may no longer be able to have complete control over admissions.

The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI), an agency of the ministry of human resource development, has asked state governments to fix a minimum percentage of students that has to be admitted to such institutions to prevent what it terms as “misuse".

The Supreme Court in April had said the government can reserve 27% of the seats at institutions of higher learning for other backward classes, or OBCs. Minority community-run institutions, however, are exempted from providing any such reservations and are free to set their respective admission policies.

“In the last few months, the commission received several complaints of misuse of this exemption. Many institutions were found to be admitting students from non-minority communities in large numbers," said M.S.A. Siddiqui, chairman of NCMEI.

As many as 600 academies have applied for minority community status from NCMEI since the apex court ruling.

Its 34-page guideline, first reviewed by Mint, asks states to fix a “minimum percentage of students from the minority community" to be admitted by what is called minority educational institutions, or MEIs. The percentage can vary from state to state, it said.

So far, laws governing such institutions, including the NCMEI Act, are silent on the percentage of seats to be reserved for the communities they were set up to benefit.

The new guidelines say the percentage of non-minority students would depend on “types of institution, courses of education...and other factors like educational needs".

The document also forbids MEIs from “admitting minority students of the adjoining state in which they (the communities) are in a majority to preserve (their) minority status".

The guidelines prescribe an “enquiry about composition of student population of MEI" to establish if it “is only a façade for money making".

“While such institutions must be promoted to benefit the students from the minority communities...the rules must ensure the benefits are reaching them," Siddiqui said.

Under the NCMEI Act, an institution must be established and run by an organization from a religious minority—Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians—to qualify for minority status.

NCMEI has granted minority certificates to 1,537 institutions in the past two years.

Existing rules say MEIs must admit minority students under a “prescribed percentage governing admissions", without defining the percentage.

The guidelines have been sent to state governments and the ministry for approval and implementation.

Lawyers, however, point to a problem for state governments.

“The concentration of minorities could differ from block to block and district to district. It’s practically implement a uniform percentage even across a state," said Romy Chacko, a counsel in several cases involving MEIs.