SC asks states, stakeholders views on RTE validity

The SC has asked all states, schools and stakeholders to give their views on the constitutional validity of the Centre`s decision to reserve 25 per cent of seats for economically weaker sections.

Last Updated: Mar 17, 2011, 22:15 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked all
states, schools and stakeholders to give their views on the
constitutional validity of the Centre`s decision to reserve 25
per cent of seats for economically weaker sections (EWS) under
the Right to Education Act.

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice SH Kapadia, KS
Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar took the suo motu decision
at the fag end of the day-long hearing on a writ petition
filed by the Society for Unaided Schools of Rajasthan.

Instead of hearing only the Society which filed the writ
petition last year challenging the constitutional validity,
the apex court decided to broad base the scope of the hearing
by inviting all other stake holders.

"In case any society/association/society desires to
appear and make submission before the bench by way of
intervention or petition it may do so.

"Similarly all states, UTs are put on notice that if they
desire to make submissions on the batch of writ petitions they
may do so. The batch of writ petitions will be taken up on
March 29," the bench said in an order.

The apex court, during the hearing, had remarked that
private schools should not complain about the additional
burden as investment in education was an investment for the
country`s future.

The bench, however, said it was willing to strike down
the legislation if the private schools are able to establish
that constitutional principles have been violated by enactment
of the Right to Education Act under which free and compulsory
education had been made mandatory for all children in the age
group of 6-14 years.

Senior counsel Shekar Naphade, during the arguments
on Thursday, submitted the decision to reserve 25 per cent seats in
private educational institutions "was not based on any
intelligible data having nexus to the objects of the Act"
since there were no clear parameters for reimbursing the
private schools.

According to the private schools, since 25 percent of
the seats have been reserved for the EWS, the displaced
children from the middle and rich class have to take seats in
government schools, creating an anomalous situation.

The apex court had earlier asked Additional Solicitor
General Indira Jainsing to furnish data, if any, on the number
of students who may stand benefited under the EWS quota.

The main petitioner Society for Un-aided Private
Schools, Rajasthan, and certain associations representing
private schools have questioned the validity of the Act on the
ground that it impinged on their rights to run the educational
institutions.

The petitioners had contended the issues involved in the
Act relate to Article 15 (5) and to Article 21(A) of the
Constitution.

Article 21(A) says the state shall provide free and
compulsory education to all children of the age of six to
fourteen years in such a manner as the state may, by law,
determine.

Article 15 (5) of the Constitution enables the state
to make provisions for advancement of education for weaker
sections of society relating to admission in educational
institutions.

The petitions contended that the RTE Act, 2009, is
"unconstitutional" and "violative" of fundamental rights.

The petitioners cited the Supreme Court`s 11-judge
Constitution bench ruling in TMA Pai case wherein it was
ruled that maximum autonomy should be provided to private
educational institutions

According to the petitioners, 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 neighborhood.

The provision prohibits any type of screening which is
necessary for the procedure of admission, the petitioners
said.

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

Further, the law does not permit the educational
institutions to verify the age of the children coming for
admission, the petitioner said, adding the power to expel
students from the institution for unruly behaviour has been
taken away by the new law.

The petitioners have also challenged the provision in
the law which makes it mandatory to promote all students till
Class 8.

Article 21(A) says the state shall provide free and
compulsory education to all children of the age of six to
fourteen years in such a manner as the state may, by law,
determine.

Article 15 (5) of the Constitution enables the state to
make provisions for advancement of education for weaker
sections of society relating to admission in educational
institutions.

The petitions contended the RTE Act, 2009, is
"unconstitutional" and "violative" of fundamental rights.

The petitioners cited the Supreme Court`s 11-judge
Constitution bench ruling in TMA Pai case wherein it was
ruled that maximum autonomy should be provided to private
educational institutions

According to the petitioners, 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 provision prohibits any type of screening which is
necessary for the procedure of admission, the petitioners
said.

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

Further, the law does not permit the educational
institutions to verify the age of the children coming for
admission, the petitioner said, adding the power to expel
students from the institution for unruly behaviour has been
taken away by the new law.

The petitioners have also challenged the provision in
the law which makes it mandatory to promote all students till
Class 8.

PTI