& Ors Vs. University Grants Commission & Anr  Insc 369 (5 May 2004)
& G.P. Mathur. G.P. Mathur, J.
introduction of "Jyotir Vigyan", (science of astrology) as a course
of study by the University Grants Commission is subject matter of challenge in
the present appeal which has been preferred by special leave against the
judgment and order dated April
27, 2001 of High Court
of Andhra Pradesh.
writ petition by way of public interest litigation was filed in the High Court
of Andhra Pradesh praying that a writ of mandamus be issued commanding the
University Grants Commission not to start and give any funds for Graduate and
Post-Graduate Courses (BSc. and M.Sc.) in Jyotir Vigyan. The petition was
preferred by Dr. P.M. Bhargava who was founder Director of Centre for Cellular
and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad and had received many awards
including "Padma Bhushan" in the year 1986 for his research, work and
contribution to science. The other petitioners were Prof. K. Subash Chandra Reddy
who was Head of Department of Political Science, Osmania University, and Mrs. Chandana Chakrabarti who
is a writer and consultant. It was pleaded in the writ petition that the
University Grants Commission (for short 'the UGC') had taken a decision to
start and give grants for Graduate and Post Graduate (B.Sc. and M.Sc.) courses
in Vedic Astrology called "Jyotir Vigyan" from the year 2001 onwards
in various Universities and for teaching such a course posts of one Professor,
one Reader, two Lecturers, one Library Attendant and one Computer Operator
shall be created for which a non-recurring grant of Rs.15 lakhs shall be given
to the said department in the Universities. Thus the total expenditure which
will be required in starting the course in various universities would run into
several crores. The course in Vedic Astrology cannot be termed as a course of
scientific study as astrology had never been regarded as a science. Science is
defined as knowledge acquired through the use of the scientific methods and the
attributes of such knowledge include fallibility, verifiability and
repeatability. Scientific truths are not dependant on whims and fancies of
individuals. That apart science is international and if and when differences of
opinion arise, scientists all over the world work honestly and diligently to
resolve them. Astrology can not be regarded as a science, as it lacks the above
mentioned features. It has never been supported by any scientific research or
study conducted according to stringent scientific procedure. It was further
averred that the proposal to introduce "Jyotir Vigyan" is a clear
attempt on the part of the respondents to saffronise education and of thrusting
their hidden agenda of imposing Hindu values in higher education. It was also
pleaded that research in the fields of pure science was being affected for want
of funds and therefore there was no justification in spending huge amounts on a
pseudo-science called Vedic Astrology which is a giant leap backwards.
High Court after taking note of the meaning and other attributes of Astrology
held that Astrology is a subject which according to opinion of the experts
require pursuit of further studies. It was a policy decision and while
exercising power of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution, the
High Court would not interfere with the aforesaid policy decision of the UGC to
start a course in "Jyotir Vigyan". The High Court was also of the
opinion that the averments made in the writ petition and the relief sought
showed that the UGC had not taken any final decision in the matter and
therefore it should not interfere at this stage. The writ petition was
accordingly dismissed summarily as not maintainable.
Shanti Bhushan, learned senior counsel for the appellants has submitted that
Vedic Astrology is not a science and cannot be introduced in University
curriculum as a scientific subject. Science is attributed with provable
knowledge than with beliefs or opinions and it is defined as a branch of study
which is concerned either with a concerned body of demonstrated truths or with
observed facts systematically classified and more or less colligated by being
brought under general laws, and which includes trustworthy methods for
discovery of new truth within its domain.
field to be science the knowledge must be acquired through the use of
scientific methods and should have attributes like verifiability, fallibility
and repeatability. If tested against these accepted and essential attributes of
science, Vedic Astrology will unarguably fail on most, if not all, parameters
mentioned above. Learned counsel has also submitted that the scientific
community all over India has unanimously protested against
the introduction of Vedic Astrology as a scientific stream of study in
Universities. An appeal signed by a large number of reputed members of Indian
Scientific Community and others against the decision of the respondents to
start courses of Vedic Astrology was sent to the UGC wherein the impugned
decision of UGC was termed as a giant leap backwards, undermining whatever
scientific credibility the country has so far achieved. It has also been urged
that the decision to introduce Vedic Astrology would erode and negate Article
51A of the Constitution which entrusts a fundamental duty upon the citizens of
the country to develop a scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry and
reform. The teaching of Vedic Astrology will go diametrically against
fundamental duties as enshrined in the Constitution.
it has been urged that the attempt of the respondents to introduce courses of
Vedic Astrology in the Universities is malafide and it amounts to saffronising
support of his submission Shri Shanti Bhushan has referred two passages from 68
American Jurisprudence 2d paragraphs 343-345 which read as under:
Constitutional implications of teaching creationism and evolution: Legislation
forbidding the teaching in public schools of the Darwinian theory of evolution
has been found to constitute an impermissible state endorsement of a particular
religious viewpoint. The mandated teaching of evolution as a major theme of
science is not a violation of the Establishment Clause since evolution is not
religion. The allegedly religious aspects of evolution theory have been ruled
too insubstantial to make its teaching an establishment clause violation,
particularly in the absence of any official policy regarding evolution.
or using books referring to evolution has been found not to violate the free
exercise rights of persons believing in the literal truth of the Biblical story
of creation, since the mere exposure to objectionable ideas, without
governmental compulsion to affirm or deny a religious belief is insufficient to
support a free exercise complaint.
statute, providing that the public schools are not required to teach either the
theory of evolution or "creation science", but that if either one is
taught, the other must also be taught, advances a religious doctrine in
violation of the First Amendment's establishment of religion clause, where
state officials charged with implementing the statute fail to identify a clear
secular purpose for it. Even though the statute's stated purpose is to protect
academic freedom, it violates the establishment clause where the evidence shows
that the statute is primarily designed either to promote a particular religious
tenet or to prohibit the teaching of a scientific theory disfavored by certain
Wearing of religious garb by teachers : According to some decisions, the
wearing by teachers in the public schools of clothing distinctive of some
religious order is violative of a constitutional provision forbidding the use
of public money in support of any school or institution in which any sectarian
doctrine is taught or forbidding sectarianism in public schools.
has been held that the prohibition of the wearing of any sectarian costume,
either by regulation or statute is valid. On the other hand, other decisions
hold that the mere wearing of religious garb by teachers, where there is no
attempt to give instruction in religious or sectarian subjects, is not violative
of any constitutional provision, and that absent a prohibiting statute or
regulation, religious garb may be worn by teachers in public schools.
Use of school as place of worship or for religious purposes, generally Neither
Congress nor the Supreme Court has seen fit to require a school district to
open its doors to nonstudents who wish to use school facilities for the purpose
of conducting religious activities within a school. If the intended use of
school facilities is not required or authorized by statute, there is no
constitutional right to such use where a school district has not, by policy or
practice, permitted a similar use in the past.
where a school district denies an organisation the use of its facilities for a
religious purpose, having permitted other religious uses of school property in
the past, the denial may be viewed as lacking viewpoint-neutrality, and may
therefore be deemed unconstitutional.
been stated that the power of school authorities to prohibit the use of a
schoolhouse for religious worship is well- recognized. Some statutes authorising
or providing for the authorization of the use of public school premises for nonschool
purposes, but not specifically permitting religious meetings or utilizations,
have been construed by the courts as providing authority for the use of the
school building as a place for holding church or other religious meetings at
times when the school is not in session.
most cases in which persons applying to use a public school building during nonschooltime
for the holding of church services or some other religious meeting have
contested the legality of the school authorities refusal to permit the
particular use of the school premises, the courts have found that the school
authorities acted lawfully in refusing the application.
agreement entered by school officials to lease a high school auditorium during noninstructional
hours to a nondenominational student study group for the purpose of conducting
a baccalaureate service featuring religious speakers does not violate the
Establishment Clause, where :
school board maintains an "open forum" policy toward all civic,
private, and student groups, both religious and nonreligious, which seek to use
its facilities during noninstructional hours;
allowing the service to occur in the school auditorium would not have the
primary effect of advancing religion, particularly since the school board had
already formally and publicly dissociated itself from the baccalaureate service
and refused to lend any financial support to the sponsoring group, and faculty
and board members, while invited to attend, would not be involved in any aspect
of the service either in their official or personal capacities; and
school board would have a minimal role in custodial oversight of the service.
the federal Equal Access Act, a school which provides a limited open forum by allowing
noncurriculum- related student groups to meet on school premises during noninstructional
time cannot discriminate among groups on the basis of the content of speech. A
public high school violates the Equal Access Act by denying students permission
to form a Christian club which would meet on school premises during noninstructional
time for purposes of Bible study, where the school's existing student groups
include a number which are noncurriculum related.
counsel has also placed reliance on a decision of US Supreme Court in Susan
Epperson et al., v. State of Arkansas and the summary of the decision as
reported in 21 L Ed 2d 228 is being reproduced below :.
public school biology teacher in Arkansas, faced with the dilemma that if she
used a new textbook she would presumably teach a chapter therein on the
Darwinian theory of evolution and thus be subject to dismissal for committing a
criminal offence in violation of the Arkansas statute prohibiting any teacher
in the state schools from teaching such theory, instituted an action in the
state Chancery Court seeking a declaration that such statute was void and
enjoining the state officials from dismissing her for violation of the statute.
A parent of children attending the public schools intervened in support of the
action. The Chancery Court held that the statute violated the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution, but on appeal the Supreme Court of
Arkansas reversed, sustaining the statute as an exercise of the state's power to
specify the curriculum in public schools, while expressing no opinion on
whether the statute prohibited any explanation of the theory of evolution or
merely prohibited teaching that the theory was true. (242 Ark 922, 416 SW2d
322) On appeal, the United States Supreme Court reversed.
opinion by FORTAS, J., it was held, expressing the views of seven members of
the court, that the statute was contrary to the mandate of the First, and in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, as conflicting with the constitutional
prohibition of state laws respecting an establishment of religion or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
J., concurred in the result, but expressed the view that it was doubtful
whether the case presented a justiciable controversy, and that, assuming that
it did, either the statute should be struck down as too vague to enforce, or
the case should be remanded to the Arkansas Supreme Court for clarification of
its holding and opinion.
J., concurred in the result and in so much of the court's opinion as held that
the statute constituted an "establishment of religion" forbidden to
the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, but disapproved, as obscuring the
holding, the court's extended discussion of the issues of vagueness and freedom
of speech despite its conclusion that it was unnecessary to decide such issues.
J., concurred in the result, expressing the view that the statute was so vague
as to be invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment."
the strength of the above mentioned authorities it has been vehemently
contended that teaching of "Jyotir Vigyan" would saffronise the
education as it is not a scientific study but something peculiar to Hindus and
associated with Hindu religion and, therefore, it will erode the concept of
secularism which is the basic feature of the Constitution.
counter-affidavit on behalf of the UGC has been filed in this Court.
averred therein that under the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, the UGC
has been entrusted with the duty, inter alia, to recommend measures for the
improvement of university education. The decision in relation to academic
matters are arrived at collectively by the Commission, which is a multi-member
body established under Section 5 of the said Act.
include persons, who are teachers in universities and also others who are
experienced and knowledgeable in various other fields. The purpose of
university education is multi-directional, its object is to provide structured
instruction in all subjects of relevance and interests. In a country like India, there are various subjects in
which instructions need to be imparted in a structured manner in view of the
relevance of these subjects to society. For example, various forms of medicines
and treatments, which are not prevalent in the western world, such as 'ayurvedic',
'unani' and 'tibia' systems, are also parts of medical education in India. Indian wisdom, for example,
encompasses things, such as belief in rebirth and cosmic existence.
of nature have not been fully fathomed by the human mind and therefore it would
not be proper to denounce any such belief as being utterly unworthy of
recognition. It is submitted that education and instruction should, in a
liberal and pluralistic society, must accommodate as far as possible all points
of view and provide for all sections of society. In fact a number of National
dailies and magazines carry astrological columns as a regular feature, which
are read by large number of people with interest.
counter-affidavit of UGC also gives details regarding various steps which were
taken by the Commission before taking a final decision for introducing 'Jyotir Vigyan'
as a part of graduation, post-graduation and Ph.D. courses and they are as
This matter was first mooted on June 16, 2000.
On August 14, 2000, the Chairman, UGC, constituted a
nine member Expert Committee to report and recommend on the subject of opening
of 'Vedic Astrology' at the select universities. The expert committee held its
meetings and discussed the matter with different bodies and persons.
On January 10, 2001, at its first meeting the Expert Committee recommended
opening of the departments of "Jyotir Vigyan" instead of 'Vedic
Astrology' in universities for course studies and research leading to the award
of certificate, diploma, degrees both in undergraduate and post-graduate and
After the expert committee examined the matter, it placed a set of proposed
guidelines, which were adopted by the Commission on January 25, 2001.
February 23, 2001, proposals were invited from the various universities on the
basis of these guidelines for setting up of departments of 'Jyotir Vigyan' for
providing teaching and training in the subject leading to certificate, diploma,
undergraduate, post- graduate and Ph.D. degrees. The universities were
requested to submit their proposals as per the guidelines, latest by March 15, 2001.
last date was later on extended to May 5, 2001.
On June 13, 2001, the second meeting of the Expert
Committee examined the proposals received from 41 universities for opening of
departments of Jyotir Vigyan to conduct the degree courses in Jyotir Vigyan.
The proposals came from 16 States of the country. The Committee recommended that
the independent departments be created to conduct degree courses in 'Jyotir Vigyan'
only in 20 out of 41 universities who had applied for it.
On June 27, 2001, the Commission at its 397th meeting, approved the
recommendations of the Expert Committee and decided that the independent
departments of 'Jyotir Vigyan' be created at 20 selected universities to
conduct the courses leading to award of B.A./B.A. (Hons.)/M.A./Ph.D. degrees in
'Jyotir Vigyan'. The Commission also decided that the aforesaid selected
universities be allowed to frame the required syllabus for respective B.A. and
M.A. degree courses in 'Jyotir Vigyan' and while doing so, they may prefer to
include among other subjects - Astronomy, Cosmology and Mathematics etc.
besides 'Jyotir Vigyan' as the main subject.
On July 21, 2001, the selected 20 universities were communicated the decision
of the Commission for opening of an independent department of 'Jyotir Vigyan'
in their universities for conducting courses leading to award of B.A./B.A. (Hons.)
M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in 'Jyotir Vigyan'.
pars 14 to 19 of the counter-affidavit details of the various other courses
introduced by UGC have been given which were hitherto not being taught as
conventional subjects like Functional Hindi, Functional Sanskrit, Functional
English, Tourism and Travel Management, Agro Services, namely, Animal Farming,
Forestry & Wildlife Management, Soil Conservation & Water Management,
Hill Agriculture, Non-Conventional Energy Sources, Dryland Agriculture, Rural
Handicrafts, Gemology & Jewelry Designing, Cosmetology etc. It is also
averred that UGC is processing to introduce certain other subjects in degree
courses in selected universities like B.Sc./M.Sc. in Electronic Media, Clinical
Nutrition and Dietetics, Water harvesting and Oceanography etc.
Before dealing with the contentions raised it will be useful to understand the
meaning of the word 'Astrology' as given in various dictionaries.
science or doctrine of stars, and formerly often used as equivalent to
astronomy, but now restricted in meaning to the pseudo science which claims to
foretell the future by studying the supposed influence of the relative
positions of the moon, sun and stars on human affairs [Webster's New
International dictionary] Either a science or a pseudo science, astrology the
forecasting of earthly and human events by means of observing and interpreting
the fixed stars, the sun, the moon and the planets has exerted a sometimes
extensive and a sometimes peripheral influence in many civilizations, both
ancient and modern. As a science, astrology has been utilized to predict or
affect the destinies in individuals, groups or nations by means of what is
believed to be a correct understanding of the influence of the planets and
stars on earthly affairs. As a pseudo science, astrology is considered to be
diametrically opposed to the findings and theories of modern Western science.[Encyclopedia
Britannica (2nd edition)]"
According to the above mentioned standard books Astrology is a science which
claims to foretell the future or make predictions by studying the supposed
influence of the relative positions of the moon, sun, planets and other stars
on human affairs. It, therefore, requires study of celestial bodies, of their positions,
magnitudes, motions, and distances, etc. Astronomy is a pure science. It was
studied as a subject in ancient India and India has produced great astronomers,
long before anyone in the western world studied it as a subject. Since
Astrology is partly based upon study of movement of sun, earth, planets and
other celestial bodies, it is a study of science at least to some extent.
The Counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the UGC shows that the UGC constituted
a nine-member Committee which after discussion and deliberations recommended
opening of the departments of "Jyotir Vigyan" in universities for
award of degrees. The Committee has recommended to create such courses only in
20 out of 41 universities which had applied for the same and the degree which
would be awarded will be B.A./B.A.(Hons.)/M.A./Ph.D. The decision to start the
course has been taken by an expert body constituted by the UGC. The courts are
not expert in academic matters and it is not for them to decide as what course
should be taught in university and what should be their curriculum. This
caution was sounded in University of Mysore v. Govinda Rao AIR 1965 SC 491
wherein Gajendragadkar,J. (as His Lordship then was) speaking for the
Constitution Bench held that it would normally be wise and safe for the courts
to leave the decisions of academic matters to experts who are more familiar
with the problems they face than the courts generally can be. In this case
challenge was made to certain appointments and the Bench held that what the High
Court should consider is whether the appointment made by the Chancellor on the
recommendation of the Board had contravened any statutory or binding rule or
ordinance, and in doing so, the High Court should show due regard to the
opinion expressed by the Board and its recommendations on which the Chancellor
has acted. This principle was reiterated in J.P. Kulshreshtha v. Chancellor, Allahabad
University 1980 (3) SCC 418 wherein it was held as under:
there is no absolute ban, it is a rule of prudence that courts should hesitate
to dislodge decisions of academic bodies. But university organs, for that
matter any authority in our system are bound by the rule of law and cannot be
law unto themselves. If the Chancellor or any other authority lesser in level
decides an academic matter or an educational question, the court keeps its
hands off; but where a provision of law has to be read and understood, it is
not fair to keep the court out." The above mentioned principle has been
consistently followed by this Court and it is not necessary to burden this
judgment by giving references of those cases.
The appellants do not allege breach of any statutory provision, rule or
regulation. Their complaint is that the inclusion of Jyotir Vigyan as a course
of study in the university is wrong as the accuracy or correctness of the
subject, namely Jyotir Vigyan has not been established by the scientific tests
or experiments. The precise question as to whether Jyotir Vigyan should be
included as a course of study having been considered and examined by an Expert
Body of UGC and they having recommended for including the said course for study
and award of degree in universities, it will not be proper for this Court to
interfere with the aforesaid decision specially when no violation of any
statutory provisions is demonstrated.
are unable to accept the contention of the learned counsel for the appellants
that the prescription of Jyotir Vigyan as a course of study has the effect of saffronising
education or that it in any manner militates against the concept of secularism
which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and is essential for
the governance of the country.
DAV College v. State of Punjab 1971 (2) SCC 269, challenge was made to certain
provisions of Guru Nanak University Amritsar Act (Act 21 of 1969) which made a
provision for study and research on the life and teachings of Guru Nanak and
their cultural and religious impact in the context of national and world civilisations
on the ground that such a provision would propagate Sikh religion and would
violate the rights of the writ petitioners therein guaranteed under Article
30(1) of the Constitution.
of Articles 14 and 19(1)(C) was also pleaded. The Constitution Bench repelled
the challenge in the context of section 4(2) of the relevant Act which provided
for study and research on the life and teachings of Guru Nanak and it was held
instruction is that which is imparted for inculcating the tenets, the rituals, the
observances, ceremonies and modes of worship of a particular sect or
denomination. To provide for academic study of life and teaching or the
philosophy and culture of any great saint of India in relation to or the impact
on the Indian and world civilizations cannot be considered as making provision
for religious instructions." In Santosh Kumar v. Secretary, Ministry of
Human Resources (1994) 6 SCC 579 it was held that teaching of Sanskrit alone as
an elective subject can in no way be regarded as against secularism. The
decision of the United States Supreme Court cited by learned counsel for the
appellants can hardly have any application here as teaching of 'Jyotir Vigyan'
can under no circumstances be equated with teaching of any particular religion.
We are, therefore, of the opinion that the challenge made to the inclusion of Jyotir
Vigyan as a course of study on the ground that the same will violate or impinge
upon the concept of secularism enshrined in the Constitution has therefore no
merit and must be rejected.
similar challenge to the inclusion of 'Jyotir Vigyan' as a course of study was
made by one Dr. K. Natarajan by filing WP no. 13540 of 2001 (Dr. K. Natarajan
v. Union of India) before the Madras High Court.
Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla who heard the writ petition held that the very
purpose of imparting education is to gain knowledge and therefore there should
be every scope for making a study on very many subjects in order to enrich ones
craving for knowledge. Any such attempt from any quarters in furtherance of
that pursuit should not be stultified. The learned Judge further held that it
was for the pupil concerned to select any particular field or subject in
furtherance of his future career, and merely because the subject has got its
basis or origin traceable to some cult, it cannot be held that the same would
only result in propagation of a particular religion. On these findings the writ
petition was dismissed. We are in agreement with the view taken by the Madras
the reasons discussed above, the appeal lacks merit and hereby dismissed with