The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on a petition challenging the May 31 judgment of the High Court of Karnataka which held that a student has no right to admission to a private school under the Right To Education Act if a government or aided school is available in the neighborhood.
The High Court decision came in a petition filed challenging the amendments made by Karnataka Government, whereby a proviso was added to Rule 12 to state that the obligation under Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act will not apply to a private school if a government or aided school is available in the neighborhood.
A notable ground of challenge raised in the special leave petition filed in the SC by RTE Students and Parents Association is that the amendment defeats the objective of the RTE Act to end class-wise segregation of students.
The integral purpose of the RTE Act is to achieve socio-economic justice by integrating classrooms upon an economic basis. The petition highlights that the existence of government and private schools have created a two-tier, segregated system of education, where the economically well-off would send their children to study in private schools where education is usually conducted in the English language, while those from the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups would have no choice but to go to government schools, where instruction is frequently in vernacular.
"Section 12(1)(c) was meant to break this de facto system of educational apartheid by integrating classrooms, and aiming to achieve social justice by guaranteeing diversity in the educational sphere from a very young age. Far from being a conditional or contingent obligation dependent upon whether or not the government had set up its own schools in a neighbourhood or not, therefore, the 25% obligation was at the heart and soul of the vision of the RTE Act.", contends the petition drafted by Advocates Gautam Bhatia and Rahul Narayan.
The petitioners were represented Senior Advocates Meenakshi Arora and Jayna Kothari in SC.
The petition further states that the obligation under Section 12(1)(c) on a private school to admit at least 25% students is not "contingent or conditional" on the absence of a government or aided school nearby.
"impugned amendment in the RTE Rules– which effectively render the obligation under Section 12(1)(c) nugatory altogether in many cases by turning it into a conditional obligation – is ultra vires the RTE Act.", the petition states.
"the RTE Act imagined – and mandated – the joint cooperation of the public and the private sectors. The obligation under Section 12(1)(c) upon private schools was an example of how this public/private partnership was meant to work in practice, by requiring private schools to share a part of the load when it came to educating the most vulnerable and marginalised segments of society. The 25% requirement, therefore, was not a temporary fix that could be erased the moment a government school was established in the neighbourhood", the petition went on to state.
The High Court, among other things, also relied upon considerations such as the potential burden upon the public exchequer caused by the requirement – also under Section 12 – to reimburse (a part of) the costs borne by private schools in discharging their obligations under Section 12. As per the petitioner, these are pure questions of policy, which "ought not to be invoked for the purposes of legal reasoning in a judicial decision".
As per the petitioners, the Karnataka amendment has had a negative impact on the RTE implementation in the state. Referring to newspaper reports, it is stated that applications under the RTE Act have dropped by an astounding 92% after the amendments. The judgment has practically negated the whole statute, the petition states.
Click here to download petition