Supreme Court Verdict on NCF

Friday, September 13, 2002

Press Statement

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India have issued the following joint statement:

                                       On the Supreme Court Judgement on N.C.F.

Since the publication of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), well-known academics, state education ministers and political parties had been expressing apprehension regarding the motivations of the NDA government more particularly the Human Resources Development Minister. In August last year, the state education ministers of nine states, after a convention, asserted that the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) had not been consulted in framing the NCF. Their contention was that since education is a concurrent subject, any changes in the NCF should only be done after a national consensus is evolved and the only mechanism that is available for evolving such a consensus in the CABE of which all the education ministers are the members. Later, a meeting of Chief Ministers, debate in both the Houses of Parliament and the walkout of 16 education ministers from the NCERT general body meeting expressed the same apprehension.

A number of social acivists considered that non-consultation with the CABE as unconstitutional and approached the Supreme Court to strike down the NCF on this ground. The Supreme Court has, by a majority decision, held that the non-consultation with the CABE before issuing the NCF is technically not unconstitutional as the CABE is not a constitutional body. Thus, the Supreme Court has held that given the present legal situation, the procedure adopted by the NCERT in formulating the NCF is not unconstitutional.

This is unfortunate. Tampering with the secular content of the education system has serious consequences to both our federal polity and secularism, which the Supreme Court itself has defined as a basic feature of our Constitution. This majority judgement must, therefore, be reviewed by the full bench of the Supreme Court. This is also necessary to establish a mechanism to evolve a national consensus on the concurrent subject of education in our federal polity and made mandatory. Till such a national mechanism is evolved, the states will retain their autonomy to work out their own curriculum framework.

As for the content of the NCF and instructions in religion is concerned, the Supreme Court has correctly cautioned the government to maintain a constant vigil on the part of those imparting religious education from the primary stage to the higher level, otherwise "there is a potent danger of religious education being perverted". Such caution, however, reassures no one today, given the aggressive communalisation of education undertaken by this Vajpayee government.