Jamia Millia Islamia has expressed its surprise at learning about the Centre’s affidavit opposing a National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions order that had declared the varsity a religious minority institution, through a report in The Indian Express.

The central university’s statement about the government’s affidavit in the Delhi High Court claims that the new document was only issued to the petitioner’s lawyer, while other respondents including the varsity’s vice-chancellor, registrar, and Jamia Teachers’ Association, were not provided any notice. The varsity said non-issuance of the affidavit was against the rules.

The varsity said it will file its objections to the revised affidavit in court during the next hearing of the case. It also accused certain sections of the media of publishing defamatory content against the institution and said it would reserve its right to initiate legal action against the organisations concerned.

“It is unfortunate that certain sections of the press have carried misleading and distorted versions with regard to the manner in which the Jamia Millia Islamia is handling the minority issue,” the university’s statement said.

The Human Resources Development Ministry under the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had submitted an affidavit in 2011 agreeing with the commission’s declaration. The new affidavit, dated March 5, said Jamia Millia Islamia is not a minority institution as it was set up by an Act of Parliament and funded by the central government.

The Centre’s arguments

The Centre said the previous affidavit had not taken note of the Azeez Basha versus Union of India case of 1968 in which the Supreme Court had said that a university incorporated under the Act of Parliament cannot claim minority status.

“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,” The Indian Express reported the affidavit as stating. “By no stretch of imagination, Article 30(1) could be read to mean that even if an education institution has been established by a Central Act, still the minority has the right to administer it.”

In 2011, the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions had said that Jamia Millia Islamia was founded by Muslims for the benefit of the community and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution. The commission said the institution was covered under “Article 30 (1), read with Section 2 (g) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act”.