Jamia VC Says University Will Defend Its Minority Character, slams self-styled leaders

New Delhi: Prof Talat Ahmad Vice-Chancellor Jamia Millia Islamia on Tuesday said that the university will defend its minority character. He also slammed the “self-styled leaders” who accused the university administration of mishandling the issue pending before the Delhi High Court.

The VC’s remark came a week after the Modi government had filed a revised affidavit in the Delhi high court this month opposing the Minority Status of Jamia Millia Islamia and also claimed that the premium institution was not founded by the minorities – read Muslims.

“I am pained that after relentlessly working for the good of the university for the last four years, some self-styled leaders (of the community) are casting aspersions on our intentions with regard to the minority status of the university. This is not only unfounded but also malafide and is not in the larger interest of the university,” he said at an event organised to mark the first installation ceremony of the newly-elected governing council members of the Alumni Association of Jamia Millia Islamia (AAJMI).

Earlier, India’s premium institution said there was a slanderous campaign by vested elements to malign its image and assured that it was ready to fight the lengthy legal battle.

“Contrary to the legal and factual position, it is unfortunate that certain section of the press has carried misleading and distorted versions with regard to the manner in which Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) is handling its minority issue case in the Hon’ble High Court. Some media organizations have not adhered to the basic ethics of journalism of taking the university version. It appears that there is a false and slanderous campaign orchestrated by vested elements who are trying to malign the name of the university and its administration. JMI administration reserves its right to take legal action against such defamatory content including referring the matter to the Press Council of India and the Editor’s Guild of India”, Jamia Millia said in a statement.

National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) on February 22, 2011 declared Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) as a religious minority institution saying, “We have no hesitation in holding that the Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its character as a Muslim education institution.”

The commission’s ruling was later endorsed by the erstwhile UPA government and informed the Delhi High Court accordingly by filing an affidavit on September 20 2011. The Modi government however in its latest affidavit is trying to reverse the stand taken by the two.

The fresh affidavit, filed by the Modi government on March 5, cites the Supreme Court’s decision in the Azeez Basha Vs Union of India case of 1968 to justify the change in stand. It states that the first affidavit did not take note of the Azeez Basha case, in which the apex court said that a university incorporated under an Act of Parliament cannot claim the status of a minority institution.

“In any event, the Board of Jamia Millia Islamia is elected and need not necessarily consist of majority belonging to Muslim religion. The question of it being a minority institution therefore does not arise. Treating a central university as a minority education institution is repugnant to law besides undermining its status and is against the basic tenet of a central university… By no stretch of imagination, Article 30(1) could be read to mean that even if an educational institution has been established by a Central Act, still the minority has the right to administer it”, says the fresh affidavit.

Prior to this, the Modi government had also retracted the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) before the Supreme Court in January 2016.