Bombay HC boost for surya namaskar in civic schools!

“You should not go by the name, it is rather a form of an exercise, which is good for the body”

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant any interim stay on the implementation of the decision taken by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) for making ‘Surya Namaskar’ compulsory for civic-run schools.

A division bench presided over by Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Mahesh Sonak were hearing a petition filed by former Congress corporator Masood Ansari, who challenged the MCGM’s resolution to make Surya Namaskar compulsory in its schools from August 23.

While denying granting any interim stay, the bench observed, “One cannot oppose the resolution just because of ‘Surya’ in Surya Namaskar. You should not go by the name, it is rather a form of an exercise, which is good for the body.”

Upon being informed about making chanting of ‘mantras’ during Surya Namaskar, the bench said, “Chanting of mantras cannot be forced and is unacceptable.”

The petition states, “MCGM school going children mainly belong to poorer sections of the society, coming from all religions, community, caste and creed, the impugned proposal violates their fundamental right as well as Right To Education Act, 2009.”

Terming the resolution as ‘illegal, null, void, malafide, perverse, bad-in law’ the petitioner has sought its quashing. The petitioner also claimed that the civic body or any other local authorities couldn’t interfere in the issues related to education activities of secondary and primary level schools. To support his claims, the petitioner has referred to several provisions under the Maharashtra Secondary & Higher Secondary Education Boards Act, 1965 and the City of Bombay Primary Education, 1920 and also the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009; the petitioner claimed that civic body.

Pointing at the religious aspect, the petition states, “Several students belonging to the religion other than Hindu religion may have their different religious orientations and preferences. Hence, imposing Surya Namaskar, as compulsory on such children would amount to violation of provisions guaranteed by the RTE Act. This also violates Article 25 (Freedom to propagate religion) and 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs) of the Constitution.”

“The impugned Proposal of the civic body violates fundamental rights of the children and also seeks to force children other than Hindu Religion e.g. Muslim, Parsi, Sikh, Christian, Jain including Dalit community to follow a particular part of Hindu religion in the name of exercise of Surya Namaskar. This can cause prejudice,” the petition claims.

The petitioner has also highlighted that the resolution of mandating Surya Namaskar during prayers by default would require to be performed on an empty stomach.

“The students taking ‘elementary education’ or ‘secondary education’ in MCGM schools cannot be expected to come on empty stomachs from home at the time of prayer for performing Suryanamaskar and Yoga,” the petition reads.

However, the bench has kept the matter for hearing after two weeks.

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