Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday said that mentally challenged students at shelter homes in Maharashtra can study under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan till they turn 18.
Under SSA, a union government initiative, free education is provided to the children till they turn 14.
The high court was hearing a suo motu PIL and other petitions regarding the sordid state of affairs at government-run/aided shelter homes for differently abled children in Maharashtra.
Asha Vajpayee, appointed as amicus curaie, said that under Right to Education Act, children can avail SSA benefits only until they turn 14, but mentally challenged children require more support than normal children.
Under Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, students are allowed to study till they are 18 years, so the age limit under SSA be raised to 18 for the mentally challenged children, she said.
Following which, the court directed that these children should receive benefits of SSA till they turn 18.
Vajpayee also said that the government had not provided grants to centres for mentally challenged kids for a long time. The division bench of justices VM Kanade and PD Kode directed that state should release such grants within four weeks. Vajpayee also suggested that a special scheme be formed for the education of mentally challenged children above the age of 18 years.
Accepting her plea, the bench directed the principal secretary, child welfare department, to promptly formulate a scheme.
Vajpayee further said that the government had earlier promised to give compensation to the children who were abused at shelter homes in Thane and Panvel, but it had not been paid.
The high court ordered a prompt payment and sought action-taken report from the department within a month.
Vajpayee also filed a report in the high court on the condition of these children. The bench took it on record and asked the government to file its reply.