A common syllabus and common curriculum is required to achieve the objectives of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, to provide free and compulsory education to every child of 6 to 14 years, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

Dismissing a batch of appeals filed by the Tamil Nadu government and others against a Madras High Court judgment on implementation of the Uniform System of School Education, a Bench of Justices J.M. Panchal, Deepak Verma and B.S. Chauhan said “Article 21-A of the Constitution must be read in conformity with Articles 14 and 15 and there must be no discrimination in quality education.”

The Bench said: “The right of a child should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education, but should be extended to have quality education without any discrimination on the ground of their economic, social and cultural background.”

“Enhance virtues”

The judges said: “Uniform education system would achieve the code of common culture, removal of disparity, depletion of discriminatory values in human relations. It would enhance the virtues and improve the quality of human life, elevate the thoughts which advance our constitutional philosophy of equal society. In future, it may prove to be a basic preparation for uniform civil code as it may help in diminishing opportunities in those who foment fanatic and fissiparous tendencies.”

Justice Chauhan, writing the judgment, said: “The government has to rise above the nexus of vested interests and nepotism and eschew window-dressing. The principles of governance have to be tested on the touchstone of justice, equity, fair play and if a decision is not based on justice, equity and fair play and has taken into consideration other matters, though on the face of it, the decision may look legitimate but as a matter of fact, the reasons are not based on values but to achieve popular accolade, that decision cannot be allowed.”

The Bench, quoting a catena of decisions, held that unless it was found that the act done by the authority earlier in existence was either contrary to statutory provisions, was unreasonable or was against public interest, the State should not change its stand merely because the other political party had come to power. “Political agenda of an individual or a political party should not be subversive of rule of law.”

Pointing out that the uniform system of school education law had already been upheld by the Supreme Court, the Bench said: “Bringing [in] legislation in order to nullify a judgment of a competent court would amount to trenching upon the judicial power and no legislation is permissible which is meant to set aside the result of the mandamus issued by a court even though the amending statute may not mention such an objection. The rights embodied in a judgment cannot be taken away by the legislature indirectly.

“If 1.20-crore students are now to revert to the multiple syllabus with the syllabus and textbooks applicable prior to 2010 after the academic term of 2011-12 has begun, they would be utterly confused and would be put to enormous stress. Students cannot be put to so much strain and stress unnecessarily. The entire exercise by the government is therefore arbitrary, discriminatory and oppressive to students, teachers and parents.”

Expressing its anguish, the court said: “The State government should have acted bearing in mind that ‘destiny of a nation rests with its youth.' Personality of a child is developed at the time of basic education during formative years of life. Their career should not be left in dolorific conditions with uncertainty to such a great extent. The younger generation has to compete in global market.

“The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Act 2011 clearly stipulated that the legislature intended to find out a better system of school education. Thus, the object has been to repeal the Act 2010. Thus, in such a fact-situation, it was not permissible for the State to revert to the old system at this advanced stage. Even if something remains to be done, it can be cured even now, however, such a minor issue could not be a good ground for putting the Act 2010 under suspended animation for an indefinite period on uncertain terms. Rolling back the Act 2010 at this belated stage and withdrawal thereof even for Standard I and VI would be unjust, iniquitous and unfair to all concerned. Passing the Act 2011 amounts to nullifying the effect of the High Court and this court's judgments and such an act simply tantamount to subversion of law.”