Bramchari Sidheswar Bhai v. State of West Bengal

Name of the caseBramchari Sidheswar Bhai & Ors v. State of West Bengal, 1995  
Citation1995 AIR 2089, 1995 SCC (4) 646
Year of the case2nd July 1995
AppellantBramchari Sidheswar Bhai & Ors  
RespondentThe State of West Bengal
BenchVenkatachala N. (J)
Acts InvolvedThe Constitution of India, The West Bengal Legislative Council (Abolition) Act, 1969.
Important SectionsArticle 26 (a) and Article 30 (1) of The Constitution of India

Abstract

Religion in India is considered to be the most controversial topic since ancient times. The makers of the Constitution of India have kept the topic ‘Religion’ at their supreme importance during the drafting of the provisions of India.  The Fundamental rights conferred upon the citizens to safeguard as well as protect their religious rights and duties have been upmost responsibility of the implementors of law – The Judiciary. In various cases, the judiciary faced a lot of difficulties, clash of thoughts and views but till date, the prime focus and the supremacy of Constitution provisions are like a helping hand in providing justice

This case analysis on case Bramchari Sidheswar Bhai & Ors v. State of West Bengal[1]shall highlightthe role of the judiciary in taking a righteous decision according to the fundamental rights and provide insight to proper implementation of those provisions.

Introduction

A well-known religious group, the Ramakrishna Mission, approached the Calcutta Hight court in the year 1981 with a plea that their organization is a non-Hindu organization and claimed the status of a minority organization. However, this claim resulted in widespread chaos within and outside the organization. This disturbance even took a major chaotic turn when the Calcutta High court gave them the status of non-Hindu. The case went up to the Supreme Court of India due to the nature of the case which involved religion and social opportunities as a result of the status of the organisation. The Apex court repealed the decision and the mission’s claim of a non- Hindu organization were rejected and the status of Hindu organization was affirmed.

This case analysis will give an insight into the background and facts of the landmark case of Bramchari Sidheswar Bhai & Ors v. State of West Bengal[2], proceeding with issues involved in it. The case study will also highlight the related provisions and cases which helped the judiciary to provide us with the valuable and effective precedent of this instant case. In the end, a comprehensive study of the concepts and conclusion shall give a wider view of the topic.  

Background of the case

The Ramakrishna mission had a brief history wherein 1969 they petitioned and were granted for the status of a minority in the state of Bihar. Like Bihar, they filed a petition in the state of West Bengal for the status of minority organizations.  However, in the State of West Bengal, it drew much attention as it was recognized and supported by masses. The Supreme court of India granted final judgment in two parts. First, rejected its minority status and recognized mission as a Hindu Organisation. Second, the Court granted the organization the special powers of administration to the ‘majority’ of India, agreeing to identify it as the religious denomination of Hinduism. The Mission thus retained its Hindu status at the same time remaining independent in the administration of its institutes.

Facts

A writ petition was filed in the Calcutta High Court which led to the present appeals related to the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Century College at Rahra. The college was constructed with the grants of Central and State governments. The deputy secretary of the government of West Bengal wrote to the Registrar of the Calcutta University to initiate a three-year degree college to set up under the auspices of the Ramakrishna Mission and its readiness to manage the college through a governing body to be constituted by it. The university granted affiliation to the proposed college but also accorded approval to the governing body of the college as constituted by Ramakrishna Mission. Thereafter, the governing body of the college from time to time with special approval from the State Government and university administered the affairs of the college.

In the year 1978, the Deputy Secretary to the Government of West Bengal stated that the government was feeling the need to revise the existing pattern of the composition of the governing bodies of government-sponsored colleges on a standard pattern excepting where the college concerned had a special constitution based on Trust Deed or where the college was run by Missionary Societies based on an agreement with respective Missions.

In the year 1980, the new principle Swami Shivamoyananda was appointed and the teacher’s council went on strike and even prevented the new principal Prof. Das Gupta from working and appointed their principal to take care of the management of the college. The mission and the Secretary instituted a civil suit seeking a declaration that the action of the teacher’s council is illegal.

The teacher’s council in the High court sought for the issue to reconstitute the governing body according to set pattern and a writ to restrain the new principal from acting and declaration that the Mission college will be governed by the West Bengal Act of 1975 &1978. The mission resisted these writs.

Issues

  • Whether a writ like a mandamus commanding the Government of West Bengal to reconstitute the Governing body of the Ramakrishna Mission College according to standard pattern should be issued or not?
  • Whether a writ declaring that the Ramakrishna Mission college is governed by the West Bengal act of 1975 &1978 should be considered or not?
  • Whether a writ like quo warranto restraining Swami Shivamyonanda as principal of Ramakrishna Mission College and other incidental writs should be issued or not?

Related Provisions

Article 30 (1) of the Constitution of India-

Art. 30. Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions

(1) All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice

In the instant case, the Mission argued that since the organization is a minority organization and since the fundamental right as granted by Indian Constitution, the Ramakrishna Mission enjoys protection under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court of India set aside the decision of High Court that Ramakrishna Mission being religion distinct and separate from Hindu Religion can avail the rights are conferred under Article 30 (1) of the Indian Constitution.

Article 26 of the Constitution of India

6. Freedom to manage religious affairs Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right.

(a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes.

In the instant case, the Supreme court rejected the appeals by setting aside the decision of Division Bench of High court that Ramakrishna Mission as a religious denomination was entitled to establish and maintain general education under Article 26 (a) of the Constitution of India.

Related cases

In the landmark case of Shashtri Yagnapurushdasji and Ors v. Muldas Bhundardas Vaishya and another[3], it was the first time in independent India that an attempt to define Hinduism was initiated concerning a religious group that claimed a non-Hindu status. In this case, the Court decided to elaborate on the features of Hinduism to provide a clear version of differentiation between a Hindu and a non-Hindu.

Another case of Siddarajbhai v. the State of Gujarat[4]attempted to answer the difficulties as faced by the orders and rules issued by the government with respect to the educational institutions established and administered by the provision of Article 30(1) of the Constitution of India. It was observed that “Article 26 occurs in a group dealing with freedom of religion and is intended to protect the right to manage religious affairs. By clause (a) of Article 26, every religious denomination or any section thereof, has, subject to public order, morality and health, the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes and in a larger sense an educational institution may be regarded as charitable.”

Judgment

When the mission issued writs, meanwhile the Calcutta University sent the mission notes for reconstituting the governing bodies of other colleges run by the mission. A learned single judge of the High Court dismissed the notice as issued by the Calcutta University on the premise that the Mission comprised of followed of the Ramakrishna Religion and were thus protected under Article 30 (1) of the Indian Constitution. The aggrieved parties filed appeals however, the high court dismissed it on the ground that the mission is a minority and they deserve protection under Article 30 (1) of the Indian Constitution.

However, when the matter went to the Supreme Court the court after studying the features of the mission held that Ramakrishna Religion was very much part of the Hindu religion and does not need any protection under Article 30 (1) of the Indian Constitution. However, the Court said that considering the special circumstances in which the College at Rahra came into existence, ‘we feel the interests of Justice may suffer by directing the State Govt to constitute its own governing body on the standard pattern of the usually sponsored colleges, as prayed for by the writ petitioners. But the view expressed herein shall not come in the way of the State govt wanting to change their earlier arrangement with the Mission college.

Concepts highlighted

The entire case Bramchari Sidheswar Bhai & Ors v. State of West Bengal[5]highlights the constitutional value and proper implementation of the constitutional rights conferred for the protection as well as safeguards the minorities. In this case, also, the right of religious organizations to admit and maintain their organization is conferred however, the case outlines the importance of the judiciary to step in case of injustice is happening, thus a proper scenario in case of fundamental rights enforcement was done and justice prevailed.

References

https://indiankanoon.org/doc/967081/

https://sreenivasaraos.com/tag/bramchari-sidheswar-shai-and-others-versus-state-of-west/

https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5047


[1] 1995 AIR 2089

[2] Ibid.

[3] AIR 1966, SC 1119

[4] AIR 1963 SC 540

[5] 1995 AIR 2089

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *