AMU Row: AG Says 'Nothing Political' in Withdrawing Petition in SC

New Delhi
AMU Row: AG Says 'Nothing Political' in Withdrawing Petition in SC

There is "nothing political" about NDA government's decision to withdraw an appeal filed by the erstwhile UPA government challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict holding that AMU is not a minority institution, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has said.

"I must tell you that there is nothing political about it. The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was set up by an Act of the Parliament when India was not free. It was under British rule. Therefore, it is not correct to say that it was set up by Muslims.

"There is a judgement of the Supreme Court of (October 20 1967) of a bench of five-judges declaring that the AMU was not a minority institution and that legal position still holds," Rohatgi told a television news channel.

The top law officer was responding to a query posed by the India Today news channel with regard to reasons for filing the affidavit on behalf of the Centre for withdrawing its appeal against the High Court verdict. Government had told the Supreme Court a few days ago that it will withdraw the appeal filed by the erstwhile UPA government in this regard.

Rohatgi said there was an attempt in the "1980s to try and reverse" the position of AMU by way of an amendment.

"That amendment was not enough to overturn the view (of the Supreme Court). That amendment was challenged in the High Court. The High Court has struck down the amendment saying that 1967 judgement is still binding.

"The AMU has also filed a petition challenging the verdict of the High Court. They are entitled to carry on with their appeal and contend that it is a minority institution, but I have already told you that the Supreme Court has already held 50 years ago that it is not a minority institution. So that issue will be again decided by the Supreme Court in this appeal," he said.

Besides the Centre, the varsity administration had also filed a separate plea challenging the High Court verdict on the matter.

Rohatgi further said that he cannot speak "generally of all the institutions as there may be some institutions which are minority institutions and are set up by the minority".

"As far as AMU is concerned, I am only speaking about AMU because I have only studied the AMU case. The AMU is not set up by the minority. It was set up by an act of Parliament and that position we have taken," he said.

The government had filed the affidavit in this regard on July 4.

Earlier too, the Attorney General had told the apex court that AMU was set up by a central act and moreover, a constitution bench in 1967 in the Aziz Basha case had held it to be a "central university" and not a minority institution.

Rohatgi had said that to circumvent the effect of the judgement, an amendment was brought in 1981 in the central act to accord the minority status to the university which has recently been held as unconstitutional by the High Court.

The Allahabad High Court had in January 2006 struck down the provision of the AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981 by which the University was accorded minority status.

The division bench of the High Court had upheld the order of its single judge passed in 2005 by which it termed as "unconstitutional" the granting of minority status to AMU and 50 per cent reservation to Muslims in 2004.

AMU Act was enacted in 1920 dissolving and incorporating Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College. AMU (Amendment) Act in 1951 was passed by Parliament to do away with compulsory instruction in Muslim theology. The amendment opened membership of the Court of AMU to non-Muslims.

Changes were introduced by the 1966 amendment to AMU Act, which was challenged before the Supreme Court by S Aziz Basha.

The SC dismissed the petition in 1967 holding that AMU was not a minority institution because it had been established by an Act of Parliament and had not been set up by Muslims.

Another amendment to AMU Act in 1972 made the academic and executive councils more democratic and drastically reduced the nominees of the Visitor.

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