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25% Reservation Applies To Both Entry Levels Under RTE: Karnataka HC [Read Judgment]

As per Section 12(1)(c), read with the proviso, no school has the option to pick and choose one entry level to provide reservation. 

The Karnataka High Court, in the case of Soujanya Patel Trust & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Ors, has held that reservation to the extent of at least 25 per cent under the RTE Act applies to both the entry levels, if the school is imparting education at both the levels.

As per Section 12(1)(c), read with the proviso, no school has the option to pick and choose one entry level to provide reservation.

In the present case, the state government’s actions of admissions of students under the RTE Act, at both LKG and 1st standard level in private schools affiliated to the CBSE and imparting education at both pre-primary and elementary level, were challenged.

Counsel S Basavraju, appearing for the petitioner schools, argued that the proviso to Section 12(1)(a) to (c) of the Act carves out an exception from the main provision where a school specified in Section 2(n) imparts pre-school education, the provisions of clause (a) to (c) would apply.

It was further submitted that a proviso cannot be used to import into a Section something which is not there and that the declaration that reservation ought to be provided at both the levels is prima facie illegal.

Basavraju contended that the legislative intent was to provide reservation at the earliest entry level to an institution.

Counsel AS Ponnanna, appearing for the state authorities, argued that based on the experience of implementation of the RTE Act, it was necessary to prescribe additional guidelines, which are in accordance with Section 35(2) of the RTE Act.

The Additional Advocate-General further submitted that the object behind the RTE Act was to integrate children from the lower strata of the society, to ensure social equity.

This was implemented at the earliest level so as to save the children the pain of transition and ensure organic growth.

However, unaided schools evaded this provision by deliberately starting pre-primary classes that were much lower in strength than elementary classes and fresh admissions (without reservation) were conducted for the elementary classes. He further submitted that the proviso does not destroy the main provision since the effect of the proviso is to provide reservation of 25 per cent at both the entry levels combined.

Justice S Sujatha noted that a proviso either qualifies or creates an exception to an enactment and does not state the general rule. She further noted that a reading of Section 12(1)(a) to (c) along with the proviso would indicate that it is mandatory to make reservations at both the entry levels.

Simultaneous entry to both the levels is within the framework of law. In order to avoid evasion of the RTE Act, unaided schools have substantially higher seats in 1st grade that in pre-primary. The Government Order rightfully curbs such practices.

Read the Judgment here.

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