New Delhi: The Centre has sought to distance itself from the controversy over compulsory recitation of Sanskrit and Hindi hymns in the morning assembly of the Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV), said media reports on Tuesday. In its affidavit, the HRD ministry has told the apex court that it had nothing to do with the issue. It also asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the writ PIL which had claimed that the prayers at the KVs promoted Hinduism and violated Articles 19 (Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression) and Article 28 (1) which prohibit the State from providing any religious instructions in an educational institution run on public funds. The court is likely to take up the petition on September 10 now.

Interestingly, reports said that the HRD minister is also the chairman of the KV Sangathan (KVS). The HRD ministry’s affidavit even asks for dismissal of the PIL on technical grounds.  The apex court had issued a notice in January this year and in response, the ministry said the KVS was an autonomous body which worked under a Board of Governors. It also reportedly said that the KVS had not been made a party in the petition filed by Veenayak Shah so the plea should be dismissed.

In his petition, Jabalpur-based lawyer Shah said that compulsory singing of ‘Asato Ma Sadgamaya’ at the school assembly every morning strangles the spirit of scientific inquiry and amounts to “religious instruction” which is prohibited under the Constitution. It also challenged the education code for KVS schools. This code requires morning assemblies to begin with the Sanskrit verse as a “common prayer” and end with another Sanskrit hymn, ‘Om Saha Navavatu’. The petition said that the practice “creates a lot of obstacles in developing a scientific temperament” and that the prayers lead students to an inclination towards seeking God’s help instead of finding solutions to everyday problems.