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Posted at: Jan 28, 2019, 2:04 PM; last updated: Jan 28, 2019, 2:37 PM (IST)

SC to decide if prayers in KV amount to imparting religious instruction

SC to decide if prayers in KV amount to imparting religious instruction
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Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 28

Does 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 Justice Rohinton F Nariman on Monday referred it to a Constitution Bench for an authoritative pronouncement.

Now Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi will consider setting up an appropriate Bench for the purpose.

Acting on a petition filed by 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, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the petition, saying such prayers were not religious and even cited one such verse on the top court's emblem adoring the walls of each court.

But Justice Nariman said it needed interpretation of constitutional provisions by a larger Bench.

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

Shah had 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 Kendriya Vidyalayas are Central Government schools run by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for almost five decades.

There are around 1,125 such Kendriya Vidyalayas across India with a uniform curriculum and syllabus, making them world’s largest chain of schools.

“A perusal of the prayer shows that it is based on Hindu religion and it is very different both in substance and form from the prayers of the other religious/non-religious orientations…,” Shah submitted.

 

Since the prayer was being enforced, parents and children of minority communities as well as atheists found it constitutionally impermissible, he contended.

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