Supreme Court issues notice to Centre

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre asking for a response to a public interest litigation (PIL) which alleged that school prayers in Kendriya Vidyalayas propagate Hinduism. The PIL questioned if public institutes could promote a particular religion and said the prayers should be discontinued since the schools are run by the government.

While observing that the issue is important, a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha issued notices to Centre and the Kendriya Vidyalaya management seeking a response.

The plea, filed by Madhya Pradesh resident Veenayak Shah, claimed that students irrespective of their faith and belief were asked to compulsorily recite a prayer based on the Hindu religion at the morning assembly. It also pleaded that the practise created obstacles in development scientific temperament among students.

“Students as a result learn 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, and the spirit of enquiry and reform seems to be lost somewhere,” the plea said adding that since the prayer is being enforced, the parents and children of the minority communities, atheists and others find the imposition constitutionally impermissible.

The petitioner also submitted that the common prayer is a “religious instruction” within the meaning of Article 28 of the Constitution and should therefore be prohibited. Article 28(1) of the Constitution says that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds. “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 mentioned above. The issue that arises therefore is whether the state may impose the above mentioned “common prayer” on students and teachers throughout the country,” the plea said as per PTI. Shah requested for a direction to discontinue the morning prayer in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools.

Operational for nearly 50 years, the Kendriya Vidyalayas are a system of central government schools in India which were instituted under the aegis of the Ministry Of Human Resource Development. There are about 1,125 schools in India with a uniform curriculum and syllabus which makes it one of world’s largest chain of schools.

In November last year, Kendriya Vidyalayas school principals were among those asked to “cooperate” with a Hardware-based organisation that conducts tests on the knowledge of Indian culture and values for students.

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