SC questions school prayer in Kendriya Vidyalayas, sends Centre notice seeking response

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today sent a notice to the Centre questioning the ‘Hindu’ school prayer at government-run Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs).

The apex court wants the Centre’s response on why the school prayer in KVs should be allowed, because government- aided schools aren’t supposed to propagate any religion.

The SC posed this question to the Centre as it agreed to hear a public interest litigation which says that the school prayer in KVs propagates Hindu religion, and therefore should not be allowed, because KVs are government-run schools.

A bench comprising of Justice Rohinton F Nariman and Navin Shah issued notices to the Centre as well as the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan. “It is a very important constitutional issue,” said Justice Nariman while issuing the notice.

Veenayak’s petition challenged the validity of Article 92 of the ‘Revised Education Code of Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan’.

As per the petition, “all the students irrespective of their faith and belief have to perform the prayer in a respective manner by closing their eyes and folding their hands.”

The petitioner questions if an institution funded by the state can propagate any religion. He also says that this is in violation of the Constitution, as the Constitution permits a citizen to follow their religion, and also guarantees freedom of speech.

“This practice creates a lot of obstacles in developing a Scientific Temperament among the students as the whole idea of God and Religious Faith is given immense priority,” Veenayak writes in the petition.

“The above prayer is being enforced throughout the country in all Kendra Vidyalaya. As a result, parents and children of the minority communities as well as Atheist and others who do not agree with this system of Prayer such as Agnostics, Sceptisists, Rationalists and others would find the imposition of this prayer constitutionally impermissible,” the petition adds.

The PIL filed by an advocate alleges that school prayers in the Kendriya Vidyalaya schools propagate Hinduism, which should not be allowed as they are run by the government bound by the Constitution, which is secular.

“All the students irrespective of their faith and belief, have to compulsorily attend the morning assembly and recite the prayer,” the petitioner said.

The apex court has now sent a notice to the Central govt, seeking to know if the 1,094 schools that are run by the Central govt promote a particular religion and violate the constitution.

The constitution of India, it may be noted, allows the citizens to follow religion of one’s choice or remain an atheist. Article 28 of the Constitution says “No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State funds.”

“It is a very important constitutional issue,” The Hindustan Times quoted a bench headed by Justice RF Nariman as saying.

In May last year, the apex court rejected a petition seeking to direct the Centre, states and union territories to make Hindi compulsory for students of class I-VIII across the country to promote unity and national integration.

“In order to promote fraternity, assuring dignity of individual and unity and national integration, study of Hindi should be compulsory for all the students of I-VIII standard through the country,” the plea by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, Delhi BJP spokesperson said.

There are 1,125 KVs in India and three KVs abroad, as per 2015 numbers. There are approximately 11 lakh students enroled in these schools.