India court holds legislation creating and regulating Islamic education schools unconstitutional News
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India court holds legislation creating and regulating Islamic education schools unconstitutional

The Lucknow Bench of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Allahabad High Court (AHC) held Friday that a Uttar Pradesh state legislation for the establishment and regulation of Islamic education schools called Madarsas is unconstitutional.

The court deemed the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madarsa Education Act, 2004 (Madarsa Act) unconstitutional due to its violation of the principles of secularism and various articles of the Constitution of India, including the “Right to Equality” (article 14) and “Right to Life and Education” (articles 21 and 21-A), as well as Section 22 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, which is related to the right to confer degrees.

Furthermore, the court directed the State Government of Uttar Pradesh to immediately accommodate Madarsa students in recognized secular schools, ensuring sufficient additional seats and, if necessary, establishing new schools to prevent children aged 6 to 14 years from being left without admission.

Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, expressed his disappointment with the judgment. He stated, “I think there is a need to challenge the judgment (by Allahabad High Court) in Supreme Court. We hope that justice will be served in this case.”

Prior to the independence of India in 1947, private Madarsas in Uttar Pradesh continued to operate without recognition from the state government, providing education at the local level. In 1969, the state government introduced rules for the recognition of Arabic and Persian Madarsas, outlining criteria such as infrastructure, financial status and teaching staff. These rules were followed by the introduction of non-statutory regulations in 1987.

Per the “Statement of Object and Reasons” of the Madarsa Act, the state government established the Minority Welfare Department in 1995, transferring responsibilities related to minority institutions and Madarsas from the Education Department to this new department. Subsequently, in 2004, the Madarsa Act was enacted to address the challenges faced by Madarsas operating under the earlier regulations. The Act aimed to establish a Board of Madarsa Education in the state to improve the quality of education and facilities for students studying in Madarsas.

Madarsas are Islamic educational institutions where students study various aspects of Islam, including the Quran, Islamic law (Sharia), theology and the Arabic language. They have been a traditional form of education in many countries with Muslim populations for centuries. Madarsas typically emphasize memorization of the Quran and the teachings of Islamic scholars. However, they vary in curriculum and focus, with some providing a broad education while others concentrate solely on religious studies. There are reportedly around 24,000 Madarsas present in India.