Months after a US court ruled that yoga cannot be construed as an instrument of religious indoctrination, the Supreme Court in India is all set to dwell on the same question: If yoga can be made compulsory in all schools although it may be perceived to have religious overtones.
“Can we be asking all the schools to have one period for yoga classes everyday when certain minority institutions may have reservations against it? What kind of directions we may pass when these institutions may ask us why are you asking our wards to practice yoga when we don’t want them to practice (positions like) ‘pranayama’ or ‘shirshasana’,” questioned the court Friday.
A Bench of Justices H L Dattu and M Y Eqbal expressed its quandary over issuing court orders to introduce yoga as a compulsory subject in schools. “We understand its relevance but can we say yoga is a must? Suppose children from an institution tell us we don’t want it, what do we do? What if minority institutions assert their own set of rights and question our orders? They are not before us as we hear this plea,” noted the Bench.
The court was proceeding with a petition that has demanded directions to all central and state governments-run and funded schools to include yoga as a subject in school education in conformity with the Right to Education Act as well as the National Curriculum Framework 2005.
Petitions by lawyer J C Seth and Padma awardee G L Tandon sought directions to develop curriculum, syllabus courses and textbooks for study of yoga comprising ‘pranayama’ (science of breathing) and also ‘asans’ (science of body postures) for all students from Class I to Class VIII, in terms of Section 29 of the RTE. After the Delhi High Court refused to allow their prayers, they moved the apex court in appeal.
While agreeing to examine the issue, the Bench expressed its reluctance to pass orders straightaway without taking into account possible reactions from minority institutions. “We are of the prima facie view that these things should be voluntary. We think if we ask CBSE to include yoga in its curriculum, minority institutions may come forward to complain. At the end of the day, we think you will need to implead minority institutions to get heard,” it observed.
Senior advocate M N Krishnamani tried to convince the court by arguing that nomenclature should not oblique the