HC questions govt’s role in madrasa teachers’ welfare fund

KOCHI : The Kerala High Court on Monday asked the state government why it was associated with the religious affairs of a particular community.

The HC posed the question to the state government while considering a petition against the government’s decision to provide pensions to madrasa teachers in the state, and also asked whether it was contributing to the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund.

To this, the government pleader replied, “No, initially a corpus was given, which is permissible.” The government also clarified that this was not a religious association with a community, and that a corpus fund was given, just like a welfare fund for headload workers and various labourer sectors.

The court then orally said, “That has to be done by them.” The government pleader clarified, “Initially a corpus was given and the contributions are made by them. The scheme is monitored by a board, not by the government, but by a board constituted as per law. It’s just like the Agricultural Workers Welfare Fund Board. A mechanism was devised for it.”

A division bench comprising Justice A Muhamed Mustaque and Justice S Manu made the remarks when the petition filed by Manoj, secretary of the Citizen Organisation for Democracy, Equality, Tranquility, and Secularism, and the Christian Association of Social Action, came up for hearing. The petition had sought to quash the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund Act, 2019, passed for disbursing pensions and other benefits to madrasa teachers in Kerala.

The petitioner submitted that from the reading of the Act, it was clear these madrasas were imparting knowledge about the Quran and other Islamic textbooks. “Disbursing large amounts for these purposes is unconstitutional and against the principles of secularism protected by the Constitution,” said the petitioner, adding that the government was contributing funds to the scheme.

The petitioner said the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund is primarily for the payment of a fixed amount and pension to a member who has completed 60 years and has remitted contributions for not less than five years, as specified in the scheme, based on the number of years of contribution. The government is earmarking funds in the budget for the smooth functioning of the scheme, he alleged.

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