Private unaided minority institutions get exemption
New Delhi, April 12
The government got a shot in its arm today when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act (2009) and ruled that the law would apply uniformly across India to all government, local bodies and private unaided schools.
By a majority view, a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice SH Kapadia and Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar said the Act would apply to all private and minority schools, which get grants from the government. All unaided private schools are also covered under the Act with the exception of unaided private minority schools.
All schools covered by the law will now have to compulsorily reserve in Class I (or nursery at entry level) at least 25 per cent seats of the total strength of that class for children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood. Top Delhi institutions, including Sanskriti, Modern School, DPS, Vasant Valley would be covered under the RTE Act.
However, missionary schools in Chandigarh like St John’s, Carmel Convent, St Anne’s and Sacred Heart which get no grants from the government, will be exempted and not have to reserve 25 per cent seats for the weaker sections.
“Missionary schools are in any case enrolling children from the Economically Weaker Sections but with the additional 25 per cent quota, they were feeling extremely burdened. The SC order is a relief,” said Alka Sarin, advocate for Chandigarh’s missionary schools.
The SC’s order came on a bunch of petitions filed by private unaided institutions which argued that the law violated their rights under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution which provided them the autonomy to run institutions without government interference.
Justice Radhakrishnan’s dissenting view that the law should not apply to unaided private and unaided minority institutions was overruled by Justices Kapadia and Swatanter Kumar.
The apex court said the law should be viewed as child-centric and not institution-centric. The court also ruled that the judgment would apply from today (Thursday). This means it won’t apply to admissions granted before today and post April 1, 2010 when the Act came into force. The law will thus apply prospectively.
Earlier, the SC had reserved its judgment on August 3, 2011, on petitions filed by the Society for Unaided Private Schools, Independent Schools Federation of India and others who primarily contested 25 per cent quota at entry level.
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal today thanked the apex court for upholding the interests of children before anything else. “The court has clarified a very complex issue. We welcome the court’s view that such legislations should be seen as child-specific and not institution- specific. It’s the future of children that will be secured through the law. We had always held what the SC has today ruled. Every school must now comply,” he added.
The government, however, clarified that madrassas and Vedic schools won’t be covered under the RTE Act and a Bill amending the law would be taken up in Parliament soon to exempt these institutions. “These institutions are not schools as per the definitions of the RTE Act,” Sibal said.
Schools reserving 25 pc seats will be reimbursed expenditure to the extent of per-child-expenditure incurred by the state as a whole or the actual amount charged from the child whichever is less.