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Bigger SC bench to hear school prayer case
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Bigger SC bench to hear school prayer case

Pennews

Do compulsory recitation of prayers in Hindi and Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas during morning assembly violate right to religion of non-Hindu students?

A two-judge Bench headed by Mr. Justice Rohinton F Nariman has referred it to a larger Bench for an authoritative pronouncement. Now Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi will consider setting up an appropriate Bench for the purpose. The matter is likely to go to a Constitution Bench.

The Kendriya Vidyalayas are Central Government schools run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for almost five decades. There are around 1,125 such schools across India with a uniform curriculum and syllabus, making them world’s largest chain of schools.

One of the prayers in question is: “Asato ma sadgamaya, Tamasoma jyotir gamaya. Mrityormaamritam gamaya, O? shanti shanti shanti?”. (From ignorance, lead me to truth; From darkness, lead me to light; From death, lead me to immortality, Om peace, peace, peace.) Acting on a petition filed by a Madhya Pradesh resident Veenayak Shah, the Supreme Court had on January 10 last year issued notice to the Centre asking it to spell out its stand.

On Monday, the Solicitor General, Mr. Tushar Mehta, opposed the petition, saying such prayers were universal in nature and not religious. He said one such verse was even on the top court’s emblem adoring the walls of each court.

But Mr.Justice Nariman said the issue involved interpretation of constitutional provisions by a larger Bench.

Citing Article 28(1) of the Constitution, the petitioner had submitted that no 'religious instruction' could be provided in an educational institution wholly funded by the state.

Now Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has filed a plea in the top court seeking to be made a party to the petition filed by Shah. It has supported the prayer made by the petitioner.

Shah said the common prayer was a 'religious instruction' within the meaning of Article 28 and therefore, it should be prohibited. Since the prayer was being enforced, parents and children of minority communities as well as atheists found it constitutionally impermissible, the petitioner said.

Alleging that it went against secularism, the petitioner said it created obstacles in developing scientific temperament among students as the idea of God and religious faith was given priority and instilled as a thought-process.

As a result, students learnt to develop an inclination towards seeking refuge in the Almighty instead of developing a practical approach towards the obstacles faced in everyday life, Shah had said in his petition, adding: 'The spirit of enquiry and reform seems to be lost somewhere.'

The petitioner, citing Article 28(1) of the Constitution, has submitted that no ‘religious instruction’ can be provided in an educational institution wholly funded by the state

Since the prayer is being enforced at KV, parents and children of minority communities as well as atheists find it constitutionally impermissible, he claims.

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, supporting the prayer made by the petitioner, has filed a plea seeking to be made a party to the petition. (UNI)