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Teaching of astrology no promotion of religion: SC
S.S. Negi
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, June 14
Even as the UPA government has initiated steps to reverse various decisions of former Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Murli Manohar Joshi in its efforts to “desaffronise” the education, the Supreme Court in its important judgement on the study of “jyotir vigyan” (astrology) has ruled that it can not be described as saffronisation.

“We are unable to accept the contention ... that the prescription of jyotir vigyan as a course of study has the effect of saffronising education or that it in any manner militates against the concept of secularism which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and is essential for the governance of the country,” a Division Bench of the apex court has held.

The detailed analysis of the judgement, delivered recently, makes it clear that the Supreme Court did not agree with the contention of Prof K. Subash Chandra Reddy, Head of the Department of Political Science in Osmania University in Andhra Pradesh, and Dr K. Natrajan from Tamil Nadu that the introduction of jyotir vigyan by the NDA government was aimed at the “saffronisation” of education.

Holding that the teaching of “jyotir vigyan can under no circumstances be equated with teaching of any particular religion,” the Bench of former Chief Justice of India S. Rajendra Babu, who relinquished the office on June 1, and Mr Justice G.P. Mathur in its verdict said: “We are of the opinion that the challenge made to the inclusion of the subject as a course of study on the ground that the same will violate or impinge upon the concept of secularism enshrined in the Constitution has no merit and must be rejected.”

Prof Reddy had challenged the introduction of astrology in 20 universities by the University Grants Commission (UGC) from 2001 at graduate and post-graduate levels in the Supreme Court after his plea was rejected by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Similarly an identical petition of Dr Natrajan was rejected by the Madras High Court.

The apex court said since the petitioners had not demonstrated any breach of statutory provision, rule or regulation by the UGC while introducing astrology as a subject, it would not be proper for the court to interfere with the decision.

Besides, the judgement also said courts were not experts in academic matters and it was not for them to decide as what course should be taught in the universities and what should be their curriculum as the apex court had clearly laid down this principle in its 1965 judgement in the Mysore University case.

The court made it clear that astrology was introduced by the UGC after its nine-member expert committee had given favourable recommendations in this regard.

It said as per the experts, astrology was partly based upon the study of movement of sun, earth, planets and other celestial bodies and was a study of science at least to some extent.

While deciding the matter, the court has also relied upon the definition of word astrology in Webster’s New International Dictionary and the theories of Modern Western Science in Encyclopedia Britannica, saying that “according to these standard books astrology is a science which claims to foretell the future or make predictions by studying the supposed influence of the relative positions of the moon, sun, planets and other stars on human affairs.”

“It, therefore requires study of celestial bodies, of their positions, magnitudes, motions and distance, etc. Astronomy is pure science. It was studied as a subject in ancient India and India has produced great astronomers, long before anyone in the western world studied it as a subject,” the court has concluded.

The UGC after long deliberations on the issue, had selected 20 universities for study of astrology and had sent a communication to them on July 21, 2001, for conducting courses to award BA and BA (hons), MA and Ph.D degrees in “jyotir vigyan”. 

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