Kerala HC says schools functioning under RTI Act can’t impart exclusive religious instructions


New Delhi: The Kerala High Court said that schools functioning under the right to education act can’t impart exclusive religious instructions using religious materials of a particular community bypassing other religions.

The single bench of Justice Muhammad Mushtaq made the observation while upholding the state’s decision to shut down a school that provided exclusive religious instructions and admitted children only from a particular community. A private unaided school, Hidaya Educational Charitable Trust of Thiruvananthpauram, had moved the court against the closure last year.

The court said a school that imparts religious lessons of only a particular community and bars children from other religion poses a serious threat to the secular fabric of the society.

The school in question didn’t have any government recognition or CBSE affiliation and was imparting religious instructions to at least 200 students, all Muslims. The state government acted on an intelligence report and ordered the closure of the school. The school contended that since it was not receiving any government aid or support, it was entitled to follow its own curriculum.

The High Court said the private school, which requires recognition, can give religious instruction or study based on religious pluralism after it has received such permission from the government.

“A private body that discharges public functions must adhere to constitutional values in regard to the discharge of public functions. It cannot adopt any character contrary or repugnant to constitutional morality or value. Individual freedom available to a private body to promote its own belief or faith is not available to a private body when it discharges public function. It is bound by public morality conceived in the Constitution,” the court said.

The court added that there was a difference between religious instruction and religious study and added that while the latter was allowed in educational institutions as per the Indian Constitution, exclusive religious instructions were not permitted.

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