The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Right to Education Act, 2009, which guarantees free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary education for all children between 6 and 14 years of age in the country.
A three-Judge Bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar reserved verdict at the conclusion of marathon arguments spread over nearly four months.
The petitioners contended that the RTE Act “has included all sorts of schools, including private unaided and minority schools within its wings, in complete disregard and violation of the law. The Act is violative of the fundamental right of private unaided schools enshrined under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and the minority schools enshrined under Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution.”
They argued that the law completely failed to address the issue of quality education. “It discriminates between children by applying the faulty concept of neighbourhood schools, it is silent on pre-primary education for children between 3 and 6 years and it makes no mention of the learning levels of children etc.”
Pointing out that every unaided and minority school would now have to admit without any choice any child who came from its neighbourhood, they argued that this would compel poor children to study in incompetent schools in their locality.
It was argued that the Act directing schools to provide free and compulsory education to 25 per cent students violated petitioners' fundamental right to establish and administer the educational institutions. They said the unfettered right, which the private unaided schools were now enjoying, would be taken away and once these institutions were subjected to provisions of the RTE Act, the character of an unaided institution would be taken away.
Further it was contended that the Act violated the right of a minority school, which so far did not require any recognition and thus had unfettered right of admission. If the Act was applied to private unaided schools, it would make it very difficult to recover fees from its students.
The Centre, however, said the Act was enacted to secure the fundamental right to education of children.