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Sanskrit Prayers in Schools Challenged in Apex Court

Sanskrit Prayers in Schools Challenged in Apex Court


  • GS 2 || Polity || Constitutional Framework || Fundamental Rights

 Why in News?

  • The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition challenging the compulsory recitation of Sanskrit and Hindi hymns in the morning assembly sessions of 1,125 Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV) across the country. The apex court referred the matter to the five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.

 Article 28 (1) of the Constitution

  • The petition said the revised education code of the Kendriya Vidyalayas violates Articles 19 (right to freedom of speech and expression) and Article 28(1), which prohibits the state from providing any religious instruction in an educational institution run on public funds. The petition said the common prayer amounted to “religious instruction”.
  • Article 28 (1) of the Constitution prohibits religious instruction in schools wholly maintained by the State. The petitioner was specifically referring to the recitation of the prayer, Asato Ma Sadgamaya, and said this was mandatory irrespective of a student’s faith and belief.
  • The prayer simply means lead me from darkness to light.”
  • Justice Nariman replied saying that the prayer was taken from the
  • The shloka is from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

 So what does the hymn mean?

असतो मा सद्गमय

तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय

मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय

शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

  • (O Lord) Keep me not in the ignorance, but lead me towards the reality (of the eternal self),
  • (O Lord) Keep me not in the darkness, but lead me towards the Light (of Spiritual Knowledge)
  • (O Lord) Keep me not in the (fear of) death (due to the bondage of the mortal world), but lead me towards the Immortality (gained by the Knowledge of the Immortal Self beyond Death)
  • (May there be) Peace, peace, peace (at the three levels – Adidaivika, Adibhautika and Adhyatmika).

 In support of the Petitioner

  • No religious Instruction in Govt. Funded schools.
  • No Morning assembly
  • The school has no right to initiate prayers.
  • Unscientific thought process
  • Violation of Right of Atheist
  • Loss of Cultural identity/Religious identity
  • Prayer is practice of Religion
  • USA in 1960
  • Why should a Christian or Muslim or Sikh need to recite a verse from Hindu scripture? It definitely violates their rights, just like a forced recitation from the Quran violates a Hindu’s right.

 Criticism of the Petion

  • Aruna Roy case- Religion should not be practiced in schools, but religion can be taught in schools.
  • Not Religious, but cultural
  • Pictures in Original Constitution
  • For peace of mind
  • Connote universal truth
  • The problem is this country don’t know about other religions
  • Not teaching about deity, but about humanity
  • Universal truth irrespective of religion
  • Not orthodox
  • While the secular and rationalist world denounce Hinduism as a religion of superstition, when the same “superstitions are copied” by the west , it suddenly becomes science.

 An Example-Garuda Indonesia

  • In Indonesia 87% of the population are Muslim population.But there currency has a picture of the  Lord Ganesha (Hinduism). This scenario is not possible in India.
  • Garuda: The Garuda is a legendary bird or birdlike creature in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain mythology.He is variously the vehicle mount (vahana) of the Hindu god Vishnu, a dharma-protector and Astasena in Buddhism, and the Yaksha of the Jain Tirthankara Shantinatha.
  • Indonesian’s respect their culture.


  • Is the comparison in school and other things justified?
  • Involve all or leave!
  • Meeting of multiple religions is good
  • Different prayers
  • Why SC constituted a bench into the matter?
  • Respect the law of land.

 Additional Info- Kendriya and Navodaya Vidyalaya

  • Kendriya Vidyalaya is a system of central government to schools under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • The objectives are:
  • To cater to the educational needs of children of transferable Central Government including Defence and Para-military personnel by providing a common programme of education.
  • To pursue excellence and set the pace in the field of school education.
  • To initiate and promote experimentation and innovations in education in collaboration with other bodies like the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) etc.
  • To develop the spirit of national integration and create a sense of ‘Indianness’ among children.
  • They follow the CBSE curriculum. As on date, there are 1115 functional schools with 1175595 students.
  • On the other hand, Navodya Vidyalayas were established with the primary objective to provide good quality modern education to the talented children predominantly from the rural areas, comparable to the best in a residential school system, without regard to their family’s socioeconomic condition.
  • Navodaya Vidyalayas are run by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS), an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education and Literacy, Govt. Of India. The Chairman of the Samiti is the Hon’ble Minister of Human Resource Development.

 Mains Question

Comment your views on whether religious prayers in school.