Indian Catholic News

Court favors Christian view on Delhi college's admission process

Indian Court rules that Protestant college's supreme council has rightful role in deciding the Christian student intake

New Delhi: 

Officials of the Protestant Church of North India have welcomed a New Delhi High Court decision that accepted their right to oversee the admission of Christian students in a college started by protestant missionaries.

The court last week refused to stay the interview process for admission of students in the 138-year-old St. Stephan’s College, a premier Christian institution in the national capital.

The court was hearing a petition filed by three teachers who challenged the inclusion of a member of the colleges’ top management in the interview panel for admission of Christian students.

They wanted the court to stop selection interviews being conducted in this way."I do not consider it appropriate to stay the interview process,” Justice Anu Malhotra said June 12.

“They (the college management) are seeking to maintain their institution as they want it to be."Officials of the Church of North India said the court’s decision is in keeping with provisions of the India’s constitution allowing religious minorities to establish and manage their own educational institutions.

Alwan Masih, general secretary of the Synod of the Church of North India, described the court ruling as encouraging.He said this was because it recognized that the student interview process complied with the rules and regulations of the institution, which was seeking to safeguard its rights.

The Protestant Church of North India, which inherited the British Protestant Church and its institutions in northern India, owns and manages St. Stephan’s College.

Masih told that the college’s supreme council decided to include a member of the council in the interview panel to ensure the right of the Christian students to get 50 percent of seats in the college.

Three teachers, members of the college's governing body, approached the court on June 1 to lodge a challenge against the decision.The supreme council of the college is a subset of six members of the 15-member governing body.

All members of the supreme council are members of the Church of North India and maintaining the Christian character of the college is part of the council’s responsibility.The three teachers maintained the council’s decision amounted to interference in the administration of the college.

Their counsel argued in the court that those “who aren’t academicians” should not be allowed to be part of the student intake decision making, adding that involvement of “outsiders” constituted a violation of norms.Bishop Warris K Masih of Delhi, Chairman of the Supreme Council and Governing Body of St Stephens College, in a statement, said the decision to include a Christian would in no way impact the standard of education in the college.

In 1992, India’s Supreme Court upheld the minority status of the college and permitted the college to have a separate admission process for Christian students.

“The supreme council owns the college,” Bishop Masih said in the statement. "It can have its representatives wherever it wants. The teachers should not complain unless it is affecting the quality of education in the institution.

”Nandita Narain, one of the petitioners, told media representatives that the court had not totally dismissed their petition.“It has just denied giving us a stay right now,” she said.

“The petitioners are going to discuss it and we are not going to leave it here.”

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