New Delhi: The central government has sought to distance itself from a controversy regarding compulsory recitation of Sanskrit and Hindi hymns in the morning assembly of the Kendriya Vidyalayas.
Even though the Minister of Human Resource Development is the Chairman of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), the ministry's affidavit in the Supreme Court has said that it has nothing to do with the contentious issue.
HRD ministry, which is in-charge of the KVS, has told the court that the issue of mandatory singing of Sanskrit and Hindi verses with folded palms and closed eyes during morning assemblies does not concern the ministry.
Its affidavit has categorically admitted that the KVS works under the HRD ministry and that the Union Minister is the chairman, but at the same time it has pressed for dismissal of the petition citing technical grounds and the fact that HRD ministry does not have to say anything on it.
The ministry has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the writ petition, which has claimed that the prayers at Kendriya Vidyalayas promote Hindu religion and violate Articles 19 (Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression) and Article 28 (1), which prohibits the State from providing any religious instruction in an educational institution run on public funds.
Responding to a notice issued by the Supreme Court in January, the ministry has said that KVS is an autonomous body, working with several committees under the Board of Governors.
The HRD ministry pointed out that KVS has not been made a party in the petition filed by Veenayak Shah and, thus, the plea deserves to be junked solely on the ground of “mis-joinder of necessary parties”.
The court is likely to take up the petition for hearing by a bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman on September 10.
In his petition filed through advocate Satya Mitra, Shah, a Jabalpur-based lawyer, has maintained that the compulsory singing of Sanskrit hymn 'Asato Ma Sadgamaya' at the school assembly every morning strangles the spirit of scientific inquiry and amounts to “religious instruction”, prohibited under the Constitution.
The petition has challenged the revised education code for KVS schools. This set of regulations, compiled in 2012 and implemented from 2013, requires morning assemblies to begin with the Sanskrit verse as a “common prayer” and end with another Sanskrit hymn, 'Om Saha Navavatu' or May God Protect Us Both.
The petition added that the practice “creates a lot of obstacles in developing a scientific temperament” and that the prayers tend students to develop an inclination towards seeking refuge from the Almighty instead of developing a practical outcome towards the obstacles and hurdles faced in everyday life.