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Supreme Court puts a stay on Allahabad High Court’s verdict to invalidate the UP Board of Madarsa Education Act, states that High Court has misinterpreted the Act on Friday 05 April, 2024

In a landmark ruling, on Friday, April 5, the Supreme Court of India suspended the Allahabad High Court’s March 22 ruling that deemed the ‘Uttar Pradesh Board of Madarsa Education Act 2004’ unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court stated, “We believe the issues raised in the petitions warrant further consideration. We are inclined to issue notice,” while addressing five Special Leave Petitions against the High Court’s decision. The bench, comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, noted that the High Court had likely misinterpreted the regulatory nature of the Act.

The Court highlighted that the High Court’s ruling would significantly affect the education of approximately 17 lakh students, thus suspending the High Court’s decision. The bench remarked, “The High Court appears to have misinterpreted the Act’s provisions. The Act doesn’t advocate religious instruction but aims for regulation.”

The Court further commented on the state’s role in ensuring quality education for all students, suggesting that the High Court’s decision to invalidate the 2004 Madarsa Act might not be the appropriate remedy.

The petitions were filed by Anjum Kadari, Managers Association Madaris Arabiya(UP), All India Teachers Association Madaris Arabiya (New Delhi), Manager Association Arbi Madarsa Nai Bazar, and Teachers Association Madaris Arabiya Kanpur.

Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, representing Uttar Pradesh, stated that the state accepts the High Court’s judgment, prompting the Chief Justice to question why the state wasn’t defending its legislation as it did before the High Court. The ASG responded that the state had decided to accept the High Court’s verdict.

The Union of India, represented by Attorney General for India R Venkataramani, also backed the High Court’s decision.

Petitioners voiced concerns about the immediate disruption of an educational system that had been in place for 120 years, affecting 17 lakh students and 10,000 teachers. Dr Abhishek Manu Singhi, representing the Managers Association Madaris, argued against the High Court’s claim that modern subjects were not taught in Madrasas. He emphasized that the Act was primarily regulatory, and striking it down would render Madrasas unregulated.

Singhi challenged the High Court’s reasoning that teaching religion equates to religious instruction, referencing the Aruna Roy case of 2002 (7) SCC 368. He pointed out that teaching subjects like Sanskrit, Hinduism, or Islam does not necessarily amount to religious instruction.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi contended that Article 28 would only apply if the institution is entirely funded by the state. He referenced Article 28(2), stating that it doesn’t apply to institutions where religious instruction is mandated.

Senior Advocate Dr. Maneka Guruswamy argued that the Act ensures standards for the 16,000 Madarsas, of which 500 receive some form of state aid. Without the statute, these Madarsas would be unregulated, potentially lowering educational standards.

Opposing the interim relief, the state assured the Court of a smooth transition for students and teachers. The ASG clarified that while the Madarsas were not ordered to close, the Act had been invalidated, meaning there was no obligation for the state to provide aid. However, Madarsas could continue operating without state assistance. The state’s financial commitment was stated to be Rs 1096 crores.

Senior Advocate Guru Krishnakumar and V Chitambaresh contested the petitioners’ claims, asserting that the Madarsas were not entirely funded by the state and that the curriculum lacked modern subjects.

Attorney General for India R Venkataramani expressed concerns about the potential entanglement of religion, particularly when state aid is involved, supporting the High Court’s judgment.

Earlier, the High Court, comprising Justice Vivek Chaudhary and Justice Subhash Vidyarthi, had declared the UP Madarsa Board’s law as Ultra Vires. They directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to devise a scheme to integrate Madrasa students into the formal education system.

This decision follows the state government’s decision to survey Islamic educational institutions in the state and the formation of an SIT in October 2023 to investigate foreign funding of Madrasas.

The High Court’s ruling stemmed from a writ petition by Anshuman Singh Rathore challenging the UP Madarsa Board and the management of Madrasas by the Minority Welfare Department, involving both the Union of India and the State Government.

M.A Ausaf, Adv., Sankalp Narain, Adv., and Rohit Amit Sthalekar, Advocate-On-Record, also represented the petitioners before the Supreme Court.

Also read: Allahabad High Court Declares Uttar Pradesh Madarsa Act Unconstitutional

Case Title : Anjum Kadari and another v. Union of India and others Diary No. 14432-2024, Managers Association Madaris Arabiya UP v. Union of India SLP(C) No. 7821/2024 and connected matters.

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