The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to seek an affidavit from those who want to set up a new educational institution -- college or school -- stating that they are not involved in any criminal activities or have a dubious background.
The decision, when implemented, will prove problematic for several lawmakers who have a criminal background. A large number of lawmakers in Uttar Pradesh are running educational institutions, including engineering colleges in the state.
The government decision is in consonance with the Allahabad High Court, which had dismissed a plea moved by a murder convict in May this year, claiming his right to be appointed as secretary of a society which ran an educational institution on the ground that he had been lawfully elected.
While noting that education forms the backbone of a nation’s strength and character, the bench of Justice Ajay Bhanot had observed that persons with such criminal antecedents cannot be permitted to run the affairs of an educational institution and blight the education prospects of the country’s youth.
“Law cannot countenance a situation wherein convicted criminals run educational institutions as a matter of right,” the court had said.
The petitioner had moved the high court challenging an order passed by the Deputy Registrar, Firms, Societies and Chits, declining to register the list of office-bearers of the society, namely Shiksha Prasar Bankatu Bujurg Etawah, on the ground that a reference was pending before the prescribed authority under Section 25(1) of the Societies Registration Act.
It was the petitioner’s argument that he had been lawfully elected as the secretary of the society, therefore, the Deputy Registrar should have registered his name in the list of office-bearers of the society.
However, the court observed that the right of the petitioner to be appointed as secretary of the society had to be construed in light of Section 16A of the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
The said section provides that any person convicted of any offence in connection with the formation, promotion, management or conduct of the affairs of a society, or of a body corporate, or of an offence involving moral turpitude shall be disqualified for being a member of the governing body of a society.
The judge said, “The term moral turpitude cannot be defined by an iron cast rule or an inflexible formula to fit all cases. To determine whether an offence comes within the purview of the term ‘moral turpitude’ a fact-based enquiry has to be made."
Therefore, stressing that the present matter pertained to the management of an educational institution, the court opined that the offence of murder for which the petitioner had been convicted will be comprised in the ambit of “moral turpitude".
“The provision has been created to curb mischiefs of like nature; it has to be applied to purge educational institutions of criminal elements, and lift the curse of criminal influence on formative minds," the court said, while dismissing the plea.