Five-judge bench to hear plea on law on free education

The SC refers to five-judge bench petitions challenging law of free and compulsory education.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday referred to the five-judge constitution bench a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of the law providing free and
compulsory education.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said that the the matter will be put before a larger bench of five judges to pass direction on the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of provisions in the Right to Free and Compulsory
Education Act.

The petitions claimed that the Act providing free and compulsory education was "unconstitutional" and "violative" of fundamental rights.
The Act made free and compulsory education a fundamental right for children between 6-14 years, besides mandating that even private educational institutions have to reserve 25 per cent of the seats for children from poor families.

The petitions claimed the Act violated the rights of private educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) which provided maximum autonomy to private managements to run their
institutions without governmental interference.

The petitioners recalled the 11-judge Constitution Bench ruling of the Supreme Court in the TMA Pai case wherein it was ruled that maximum autonomy should be provided to private educational institutions.

According to the petitions, Section 3 of the Act imposed an absolute mandate on all schools, including private unaided and minority institutions, to admit without any choice each and every child whosoever comes to take admission in the schools in the neighbourhood.

The Act was silent with regard to the fate of children between the age of 3-6 years which was in fact a crucial period for a child`s education to commence, it said.