A plea claiming that all students of the Kendriya Vidyalayas, irrespective of their faith and belief, have to compulsorily recite a prayer based on the Hindu religion at the morning assembly, today led the Supreme Court to seek the government's response.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha issued notice to the government on the plea which said that the morning assembly prayer was being enforced throughout the country in all the Kendriya Vidyalayas, which are also known as Central Schools.
The petition filed by Madhya Pradesh resident Veenayak Shah said the practise of prayer created obstacles in developing scientific temperament among students as the whole idea of God and religious faith is given immense priority and instilled as a thought-process among the students.
"Students as a result learn to develop an inclination towards seeking refuge from the almighty instead of developing a practical outcome towards the obstacles and hurdles faced in everyday life, and the spirit of enquiry and reform seems to be lost somewhere," the plea said.
The petition also said that since the prayer is being enforced, the parents and children of the minority communities as well as atheists and others find the imposition constitutionally impermissible.
Shah also submitted before the court that the common prayer is a "religious instruction" within the meaning of Article 28 of the Constitution and should therefore be prohibited.
Article 28(1) of the Constitution says that no religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state funds.
"A perusal of the prayer shows that it is based on Hindu religion and it is very different both in substance and form from the prayers of the other religious/non-religious orientations mentioned above.
"The issue that arises therefore is whether the state may impose the above mentioned "common prayer" on students and teachers throughout the country," the plea said.
"Issue direction to respondents (Centre and KV) to forthwith discontinue any form of prayer from the morning assembly or otherwise in Kendriya Vidhalaya Sangathans and to promote scientific learning among the students," it said.
The Kendriya Vidyalayas are a system of Central Government schools in India which were instituted under the aegis of the Ministry Of Human Resource Development.
The network expands to about 1,125 schools, ensuring a uniform curriculum and syllabus all over India, thus making it one of world's largest chain of schools. These schools have been operational for over 50 years now.