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Minority institutions don't fall under RTE, says Bombay HC. Kids to bear brunt?

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 24 March 2017, 18:40 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

The Central government brought in the Right to Education (RTE) Act to ensure that every child, irrespective of socio-economic background, could get primary education. However, many educational institutions found loopholes in the Act to avoid admitting students from weaker sections of the society.

Now, the Bombay High Court, in an order, has said that the educational institutions with minority status are not covered under RTE Act, since the rights of minority institutions are safeguarded by the Constitution.

While delivering the order, the division bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice MS Sonak superseded the RTE Act, and opined that minority institutions couldn't be forced to admit a student under the Act.

Case history

The order came on a petition filed by Dr Vikas Motewar, who had challenged the decision of the Lokhandwala Foundation School at Kandivali, Mumbai, to refuse re-admission to his daughter because she had missed school for seven months.

The Motewars had to move to Nanded in the Marathwada region due to some domestic problems. In this seven-month period, Motewar's daughter, who had attended the school from nursery to Class V, could not go to school.

Now, the Act provides that once a student is admitted to school, she cannot be removed or failed till elementary education is completed. And so, Motewar sought directions from the state government to ensure that his daughter was re-admitted to school.

After the education officer intervened, the school allowed her to appear for her Class V examindation, but did not promote her to Class VI.

During the court hearing, the school management maintained that it was not bound to follow the RTE Act, since it was a minority institution.

The court then ruled that the State could not force minority institutions to maintain standards.

Adverse impact

The order is likely to have an adverse impact on students from economically and socially weaker sections of society. This is likely to be especially true in Mumbai, where a large number of educational institutions have either religious or linguistic minority status.

Education experts and RTE activists have expressed concern that the order will hamper the prospects of poor students. “After the Act was enforced, students from weaker sections of the society could at least get elementary education, which their parents could not even think of. Now, they might hit a dead end if minority institutions start refusing to admit them,” said activist Heramb Kulkarni.

He said minority institutions could not have a free run to administer themselves as per the whims and wishes of the managing committee. “There are chances that minority institutions get inclined towards becoming religious education institutions. In that case, they can even refuse to accept the syllabus set by education boards, and also can refuse to admit poor students. This will impact the future of these students,” Kulkarni said.

He also said that, once the minority institutions were out of the purview of the RTE Act, government officials would also neglect them.

Shyam Sonar of the Saman Shikshan Mulbhut Adhikar Samiti said government apathy towards effective implementation of the Act was the root cause of all the problems.

“There is a basic flaw in the Act. The Central government will have to amend the Act to remove the flaws and ensure its desired impact. But neither the previous government nor this one is willing to bring about the change,” Sonar said.

According to him , education was made a fundamental right as per the 86th Constitutional Amendment in 2002. But the amendment was made for free education up to standard VIII. “Ideally, it should have been from KG to PG. It is the responsibility of the government. The wrongly executed amendment has deprived around 30 crore students of education. Interestingly, the RTE Act does not provide for free education in private institutions, which has rendered it useless for poor students as their parents have to bear the annual cost of around Rs 20,000 for their education,” Sonar said.

First published: 24 March 2017, 18:40 IST