The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Centre’s response on a petition challenging the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act as being “unconstitutional” and violating fundamental rights of unaided private educational institutions.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice Deepak Verma initially directed the petitioner Society for Un-aided Private Schools, Rajasthan to approach the High Court, but later issued notice to the HRD Ministry after senior counsel Harish Salve submitted the issue concerned the entire nation.
Under the Act free and compulsory education was made a fundamental right for children between 6-14 years and it mandated that even private educational institutions have to reserve 25 per cent of the seats for children from poor families.
The petition claimed that the impugned Act violated the rights of private educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) which mandated maximum autonomy to private managements to run their institutions without governmental interference.
It recalled the 11-judge Constitution Bench ruling of the Supreme Court in the TMA Pai case wherein it was ruled that maximum autonomy should be provided to private educational institutions.
According to the petition Section 3 of the Act imposed an absolute mandate upon all schools including private unaided and minority institutions to admit without any choice each and every child whosoever comes to take admission in the said schools in the neighbourhood.
The petition also claimed that the Act was silent with regard to the fate of children between the age of 3-6 years which was in fact a crucial period for a child's education to commence.
Hence the petition asked the apex court to strike down as unconstitutional the Act vis-a-vis its application on unaided private educational institutions.