The Madhya Pradesh High Court in an interim order has
directed the state Government not to force educational institutions
to conduct "Suraya Namaskar" (salutations to so-called sun god).
comes in the wake of the fresh order issued by the Bharatiya Janata
Party ruled Madhya Pradesh Government to conduct "Surya Namaskar" in
the morning hours of every Saturday in schools.
According to Fr.
Anand Muttungal, PRO & Spokesperson of Catholic Council of Bishops,
Madhya Pradesh, who had filed the PIL, the District Education
Officers, (DEOs), of the districts of Jhabua and Rajgarh issued
orders to the Catholic Mission School, Jhabua and St. Joseph's High
School, Narsinghpur, Rajgarh district to conduct the "Surya Namaskar"
and inform the authorities. They also said that the Committee that
oversees this would also visit to inspect the programme.
It may be pointed
out here that this DEOs' orders had violated the interim order of
the High Court on the same issue passed on 24th January 2007 in the
petition filled by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, New Delhi.
Chand, who appeared for the Catholic Church, brought to the notice
of the High Court that this order of the State Government also
violated the Fundamental Rights as enshrined in Articles 25 to 30 of
the Constitution of India under which the minority institutions are
governed. He also pointed out that it has gone against the interim
order of the High Court passed in the same matter in 2007.
He urged the High
Court to give an interim order to stop the State Government from
making "Surya Namaskar" compulsory and initiate action against the
officials who violated the court order.
In the light of
the arguments the bench of the Chief Justice A K Patnaik and Justice
Ajit Singh issued an interim order asking the Madhya Pradesh
Government to abstain from exerting any pressure on students and
schools that do not take part in the "Surya Namaskar" ritual. The
Court also has issued notices to Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary,
Principal Secretary Education, Education Commissioner, District
Education Officer Jhabua and Rajgarh.
Archbishop Dr. Leo
Cornelio, the Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Council, has
welcomed the order of the court.
Fr. Muttungal, the
petitioner, said: "We think that the Court has indirectly asked the
Government to uphold the secular values of the Indian Constitution".
It may be mentioned here that the said
new order of the School Education Department of Madhya Pradesh
Government was issued sometime in June this year and sent to schools
in all the districts of the state except schools in Bhopal for
implementation from the new academic session. The orders not being
sent to schools in Bhopal district is intriguing. Perhaps Bhopal
being the state capital the order was not circulated by the
government here thinking there would be much hue and cry as in 2007
when Muslims were in the forefront to register their protests over
Pervez Bari is a
journalist based in Bhopal. He can be contacted at