October 2, 2022

D.A.V College v. State of Punjab- An analysis

The case of ‘DAV college’ is considered an important case on Article 29 and 30 of the constitution. In this case, the court considered the question to determine a religious sect and denomination, within the meaning of Article 30(1) of the Constitution.

Background of the Case

In 1969, The Punjab Legislature in order to mark the 500th Birth anniversary of Shri, Guru Nanak Devji established a University ‘Guru Nanak University, Amritsar, to perpetuate his name.

On the 16th March 1970 the state government in exercise of the powers conferred on it by sub-section (1) of Section 5 of the Act specified the Districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jullundur and Kapurthala in the State of Punjab as the area in which the University shall exercise its power and perform its duties.

And Colleges those were under Punjab University, ceased to be affiliated to that university and were deemed to be associated to ‘GNU’.

The facts of the case

Against that affiliation,

  • Fourteen Writ petitions were filed by various Colleges
  • managed and administered by ‘Dayanand Anglo Vedic College (D.A.V. College) Trust and the Managing Society,
  • challenging the constitutional validity of Section 4, 4(2), 4(3) and 5 of Guru Nanak University, Amritsar, Act, 1969,
  • as being violative of Articles 14, 19 (1) (c) and (f), 26, 29 (1) and 30(1) of the Constitution of India.

Contentions

The contentions were that

  • DAV Trust was established to perpetuate the religious teaching and philosophy of, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati who was the founder of an organisation known as Arya Samaj.
  • The Arya Samaj it is stated has its own philosophy conception of God worship, religious tenets, rituals, social work, educational work etc., as would appear from the Constitution of the Arya Samaj.
  • The main purpose and object of the University as constituted by the University Act is to propagate Sikh religion and promote Punjabi language in Gurmukhi script, that since the Petitioners institutions belong to a minority based on religion and language, in that they being adherents of Arya Samaj Sect and denomination their compulsory affiliation to the University violates Article 29(1) and 30(1) of the Constitution of India.
  • In support of this main contention it was submitted that Section 5(3) of the Act and also clauses 2(1) (a), 17 and 18 of the statutes in Chapter V which inter-alia interfere with the management of the minority institutions are ultra-vires being violative of the guarantee under Article 30(1).
  • It was also contended that the minority educational institutions have the freedom to choose to which University they will be affiliated and that the legislature cannot compel affiliation to any particular University.
  • It was also submitted that this statutory affiliation being compulsory affects the Petitioners right of as association guaranteed under Art. 19(1) (c) and that Article 14 is contravened because section 4(2) and 4(3) discriminate against the Hindus, for while providing for the study of the teachings of Guru Nanak and the encouragement of the Punjabi language no provision is made for the study of the religion or teachings of the Hindus or of their language-the Hindi.

The first Question- Whether the Arya Samaj Sect is a religious or linguistic minority.

The plaintiffs claimed their rights under Article 30(1) and 29(1) of Indian Constitution. Both articles are hereby reproduced for quick reference-

29(1)- Any Section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same.

30(1)- All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

It was also conceded by the State of Punjab, that the Hindus of Punjab are a religious minority in the State though they may not be so in relation to the entire country. The claim of Arya Samaj to be a linguistic minority was however contested.

Answer by the Court

In answer to the question, the court decided that,

  • For the purposes of Article 29(1) even though it may not be necessary to enquire whether all the Hindus of Punjab as also the Arya Samajis speak Hindi as a spoken language, nonetheless, there can be no doubt that the script of the Arya Samajis is distinct from that of the Sikhs who form the majority.

From what has been stated it is clear that the Arya Samajis have a distinct script of their own, namely Devnagri. They are therefore entitled to invoke the right guaranteed under Article 29 (1) because they are a section of citizens having a distinct script and under Article 30 (1) because of their being a religious minority.

  • The court said that a linguistic minority for the purpose of Article 30(1) is one which must at least have a separate spoken language. It is not necessary that that language should also have a distinct script for those who speak it to be a linguistic minority. There are in this country some languages which have no script of their own, but nonetheless those sections of the people who speak that language will be a linguistic minority entitled to the protection of Article 30(1).

Second Question- Does the provision of Act, 1969 infringe the right of the petitioners?

The petitioners contended that sub- sections (2) and (3) of Section 4 directly infringe the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 29 (1) and 30 (1) of the Constitution.

  • Sub-section (2) of the Act, it is submitted enacts a provision for making it imperative to study and conduct research on the life and teachings of Guru Nanak and their cultural and religious impact on Indian and World civilizations;
  • while sub-section (3) contemplates the adopting of measures for the study of Punjabi language literature and culture which provisions according to the petitioners directly aim at strangulating the growth of Hindi while encouraging the growth of Punjabi.

The bare text of the provisions is herein below-

(2) To make provision for study and research on the life and teachings of Guru Nanak and their cultural and religious impact in the context of Indian and World civilizations;

(3) To promote studies to provide for research in Punjabi language and literature and to undertake measures for the development of Punjabi language, literature and culture.

Key Point

Their apprehension was that Punjabi with Gurmukhi script will be made the sole medium of instruction in the University and that all Colleges affiliated to this University may be forced to impart education through that medium.

Answer of the Court

In answer of above contention, the court said that,

“the language of sub-section (2) that nowhere is there a mandate for compelling Colleges affiliated to it either to study the religious teachings of Guru Nanak or to adopt in any way the culture of the Sikhs. Guru Nanak is the founder of the Sikh religion. His teachings were inspired by a need to synthesis the essentials of the Hindu and Mohamadan faith which were always irreconcilable, by preaching that in no essentials of faith did they differ.

If the University makes provision for an academic study and research of the life and teachings of any saint it cannot on any reasonable view be considered to require Colleges affiliated to the University to compulsorily study his life and teachings or to do research in them. The impugned provision would merely indicate that the University can institute courses of study or provide research facilities for any student of the University whether he belongs to the majority or the minority community to engage himself in such study or research but be it remembered that this study and research on the life and teachings of the Guru Nanak must be a study in relation to their culture and religious impact in the contact of Indian and world civilizations which is mostly an academic and philosophical study.”

However, the court again cautioned that,

“The purpose and object of these linguistic states is to provide with greater facility the development of the people of that area educationally, socially and culturally, in the language of that region but while the State or the University has every right to provide for the education of the majority in the regional medium, it is subject to the restrictions contained in Article 25 to 30.

Neither the University nor the State can provide for imparting education in a medium of instruction in a language and script which stifles the language and script of any Section of the citizens. Such a course will trespass on the rights of those Sections of the citizens which have a distinct language or script and which they have a right to conserve through educational institutions of their own.”

Third Question- Provisions are made to promote Punjabi culture but not hindu culture

It was contended that

  • while provision is made in Sections 4(2) and 4(3) for the study and research of the life and teachings of Guru Nanak and for the study of Punjabi language, script and literature no similar provision is made for the study, of religious Heads of Hindus or for the study of Hindi and Devnagri script though Hindus form a substantial portion of the population of the State.
  • These provisions therefore are discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Answer of the Court

On this contention, the court said that,

“This argument in our view is devoid of merit. The State of Punjab is created as a unilingual State with Punjabi as its language and if provision is made for study of Punjabi language that does not furnish a ground for discrimination…The facts of the case in our view do not attract Article 14.”

Reference

D. A. V. College Etc vs State Of Punjab & Ors; 1971 AIR 1737