Gulistan is a State in the Union of India. The population of the state on the basis of religious faith comprises: 40% Hindus, 25% Muslims, 15% Christians and the remaining 20% belong to various smaller groups like Parsis, tribals and non - believers. The State is predominantly a hilly area with four Holy Rivers flowing through it and the people are very religious by nature. A large number of people being illiterate carry out primitive occupations. Religious practices, superstitions and rituals, take much of their time and money which has greatly affected the development of the State. The State is known all over the world for its religious centers. The various religious institutions in the State are imparting only religious education putting the secular education into oblivion which has reduced drastically the people’s employment avenues. As the State is a pilgrimage center, the religious leaders, gurus and prophets of various religions in the State are vying with one another because of huge donations offered by the pilgrims. Accordingly, mass prayers, retreats, yagnas, penance services etc. are conducted very frequently. The religious leaders, the so called god men, in order to continue their hold, have created a kind of fear in the minds of their followers by way of fundamentalist practices and attitudes, which further created divisions in the society and often within the families too. The youth of the State, who were boiling with anger and frustration looking at the economic progress of other States, often revolted against those oppressive and suppressive religious practices that prevailed in their State. There were many protests by many groups headed by moderates, intellectuals and non - believers on various occasions in different parts of the State.
A group of educated and intelligent people, in that socio economic melee, who felt that if the situation was allowed to continue like that, the State’s economy would collapse, cametogether and at many meetings and discussions, they ventured to dissuade the people from that kind of blind beliefs and superstitious practices. They came to be known as "Sushratas" in course of time. Slowly and steadily the youth of the State, got attracted to this group. The group formed themselves into a society and got it registered under the Societies’ Registration Act in the name and style of "Society of Sushratas". Their mandate and objective is to show the people of the State that most of those religious practices are worthless and there is nothing that could be called a miracle. They hold regular magic shows and cultural shows in various places projecting that ideology. Whenever a new member is admitted to their group the Sushratas in order to counter the other ritualistic religious practices and at the same time, to ensure continued membership and support of the youth, observe a "De-mystification Ceremony" which is an elaborate procedure involving symbolic renunciation of one’s religious beliefs, symbols which include various rituals, on a scientific basis to reinforce a faith in the masses that there is nothing supernatural. Being a pilgrimage center, many foreigners visit the State and some of them were attracted by the activities of Sushratas. Some of those foreigners not only became part of that group but also support financially many of its activities. In effect, the leaders of most of the religious groups have felt threatened by the growing popularity of the Sushratas.
The Sushratas, in order to inculcate a scientific temperament in the minds of the growing children formed an education Trust by the name "Sushratas’ Education Trust" under which they established primary schools, and high schools in many parts of the State. Through those schools, they propagate their tenets: that time is precious, rituals and prayers have no effect, the whole universe and various happenings can be scientifically explained. Only rational thinking and scientific knowledge can bring salvation to humanity. As education is imparted by well qualified and competent teachers, most of the common people prefer schools run by Sushratas’ Education Trust compared to the educational institutions run by the various religious groups. With the popularity of their schools, they set up a college named "Institute of Scientific Theology" (IST). Since the members of the Society are highly educated and influential, they could easily get government grants for their institutions. Other religious groups carried out various smear campaign against the ‘Sushratas’ by making allegations of illegality and immorality against them. Meanwhile, in the year 2014, there was a change in the State Government which was in favour of the religious groups. Subsequently, the College advertised for the post of Director in March 2014 and in response, it received several applications. Only seven candidates were found qualified for the post. One of them, Mr. Kamlesh, happened to be a member of the ‘Society of Sushratas’. The Management interviewed and appointed Mr. Kamlesh as Director of IST, without inviting other qualified candidates for interview. One of such aggrieved candidates, Mr. Shrikhar Gupta from Nagpur, Maharashtra, challenged the appointment of Mr. Kamlesh in the High Court of Nagpur . While the matter was sub judice, the State Government withdrew the grant - in - aid on the ground that the Director was not appointed in accordance with the procedure prescribed for grant - in - aid institutions vide an Order dated 25th June 2014, because of political pressure from other religious groups. The Management of the College appealed to the State that it being a religious minority institution under the Constitution of India, they had the right to appoint their own candidate as Director, which could not be challenged as he was duly qualified to be appointed so.
The State Government required the Management of the College to prove their minority status. The Management therefore applied to the National Commission for Minorities for issue of necessary certificate recognizing the college as a minority institution within the meaning of religious minority. The Commission refused to grant such a certificate on the ground that belief in God is an essential element of religion and as they did not believe in God, they cannot be called a religious minority. In the meanwhile by an executive Order issued by the Education Minister, the Government withdrew grant - in - aid to all the institutions run by "The Society of Sushratas". The ground for such revocation was that as per the Grant - in - Aid Rules, the State Government could withdraw grant - in - aid at any time as it was a matter of policy. This invited the wrath of the Management, employees as well as some parents. This resulted in the organization of State wide protests and ‘Dharnas’ by them. During those protests, there were also reports of lathi charge, police brutality and clash with other religious groups. The Society then complained to the National Human Rights Commission that their human rights have been violated and requested the Commission to intervene. The National Human Rights Commission after investigation recommended the State Government to restore the benefits originally provided to them. In response, the State Government refusing grant – in - aid, issued a notification to the effect that the appointment of the Director was invalid. The Society of Sushratas in the year 2016, filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court of India for appropriate relief on the following grounds:
a) That the Petitioner be declared as a minority institution
b) That the governmental action in withdrawing grant - in - aid is arbitrary and discriminatory
c) That the Petitioner has the right to appoint its own candidate as the Director
d) That the act of National Commission for Minorities is violative of the Petitioner’s rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
The issues are merely indicative and the Parties may add further issues.