Rights of minorities to establish educational institutions: The Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court of India passed a judgment on 31 October 2002 in which it decided the scope of the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice under Article 30(1) read with Article 29(2) of the Constitution. This was seen in the case of T.M.A.Pai Foundation & Ors vs State Of Karnataka & Ors ((2002) 8 SCC 481) and the case was presided over by Justice V. N. Khare, Justice Shah Mohammed Quadri, Justice Ruma Pal, Justice S. N. Variava, Justice B. N. Kirpal, Justice G.B.Pattanaik, Justice S.Rajendra Babu, Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. V. Reddi, Justice Ashok Bhan, Justice Arijit Pasayat.


Dr. T.M.A Pai formed the Academy of General Education as an organization under the Societies Registration Act,1860[3] in Manipal, which was in the state of Madras at the time but became a part of the state of Karnataka after the states were recognized. The governor of the state enacted the Karnataka Educational Institutions Ordinance, 1984[4], which restricted the capital charge and prohibited the unethical collecting of exorbitant fees. A writ petition was filed challenging the legality of the aforementioned law as well as the state government’s directive dated 19.07.1984 limiting total college intake and assigning 40% of the seats as government seats. During the time the petition was pending, the Karnataka Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Capitation Fee) Act,1984[5] was passed, which established the rates of capitation and tuition fees for private unaided (not receiving government help) educational institutions. Because it received no financial assistance from the state government, the college in question was classed as a private unaided educational institution.

Issues before the court were:

  1. Is there a law that allows for the establishment and administration of an educational institution?
  2. How will religious and linguistic minorities be decided—on state or national grounds?
  3. Whether the government’s restrictions regarding minority-affiliated or unaffiliated institutions violate Article 30?
  4. To what extent can the government control the management of minority-aided and unaided institutions?


The court ruled that the minority status of any religion will be determined at the state level rather than at the national level. Minorities have the basic right to establish educational institutions, although the rights granted to them under Article 30(1) are not absolute. It must be interpreted in conjunction with article 29(2), as well as with all other fundamental rights. Such institutions can be subjected to legitimate limits imposed by the state. If they do not receive state funding, minority institutions may admit students based on their own criteria. The admissions process should be open, merit-based, and equitable. Even if the institution is an unaided minority institution, merit should not be compromised. In the case of aided institutions, the state has the authority to regulate the admission process for future classes. It was also suggested that the primary admissions criteria be merit, with extra consideration given to individuals from underrepresented groups. The state’s admissions policy should be redrafted and implemented properly. Even the hiring of teachers should be equitable. The state can make basic laws to govern the aforementioned things, but the independence of minority institutions should not be jeopardised. Fees set by unassisted minority institutions cannot be regulated, but they should not be greater than those permitted by the government.

Furthermore, without compromising overall administrative supervision, the state is able to supervise the working conditions for the teaching and administrative employees. If minority institutions receive state financial aid and grants, they should make a fair effort to reserve certain places for the open category as well, depending on merit. Both aided and unassisted educational institutions make up the two types of minority institutions. Educational institutions that are not funded have more autonomy than those that are. Even when the institution admits minority students of their choice, it won’t amount to a violation of Article 29(2) because minority institutions permit non-minority students to be admitted on the basis of merit. In the end, the court decided that the state government will choose students for the petitioner’s educational institutions for 50% of the total seats based on competitive exams or other alternative assessments. Candidates will pay fees up to the state government’s approved cap.

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