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Bhopal: 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).


This direction 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.


Advocate Rajesh 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 the issue.


Pervez Bari is a journalist based in Bhopal. He can be contacted at









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