Right to Education in India

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Author Aryan Sharma gives us a brief overview of the RTE Law in India and its history.

Image Source: Deccan Chronicle

Introduction

Education is the basis for the development and empowerment of every nation. Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world. Education has its function in all spheres of life. The significance of it can never be marginalized. Education can create an educated society that prepares the present generation for a bright future and enables the individual to galvanize the capacity of the collective. According to ancient thinkers in India, Vidya, or knowledge, or learning, or education, was considered as the ‘third eye’ of man, which gives him an insight into all affairs and teaches him how to act; it leads him to his salvation; in the mundane sphere, it leads a person to all-round progress and prosperity. The right to education has been universally recognized since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and has since been enshrined in various international conventions, national constitutions, and development plans. The enacted Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is a milestone in the field of educating millions of children, who are unable to reach the schools due to the poverty and illiteracy of their parents.

Judicial Contribution

The Supreme Court of India decided on two Public Interest Litigation cases i. e., Mohini Jain and Unni Krishnan cases in which the Court enforced the right to education. Both cases concerned the impact of certain state laws on private educational institutions of higher learning, the Court took the opportunity to develop a precedent that also governed the public provision of elementary education.

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In Mohini Jain vs. the State of Karnataka, popularly known as the ‘capitation fee case’, the Supreme Court has held that the right to education is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution which cannot be denied to a citizen by charging a higher fee known as the captivation fee. The right to education flows from the right to life. In the instant case, the petitioner had challenged the validity of a notification issued by the government under the Karnataka Education Institution (Prohibition of Capitation Fee) Act 1984 passed to regulate tuition fees to be charged by the private medical colleges in the state. The Division Bench of two judges held that the right to education at all level is a fundamental right given to a citizen under Article 21 of the constitution and charging a captivation fee for admission to educational institutions is illegal and leads to denial of the right to education and is violative of Article 14 being arbitrary, unfair and unjust.

Subsequently, in Unni Krishna vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, the Apex Court was requested to examine the correctness of the decision given by the Court in the Mohini Jain case. The five-judge Bench by 3-2 majority agreed with the Mohini Jain decision and held that the right to education is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution as ‘it directly flows’ from right to life. The Court partly overruled Mohini Jain’s case and held that the right to free education is available only to children until they complete the age of 14 years, but after the obligation of the state to provide education is subject to the limits of its economic capacity and development. The obligation that is created by Articles 41, 45, and 46 can be discharged by the State either by the establishment of institutions or by aiding, recognizing, or granting affiliation to private institutions. Thus, the Supreme Court by rightly and harmoniously construing the provision of Part III and Part IV of the Constitution has made the right to education a basic fundamental right.

In the case of Bandhuwa Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India and others, it has been held that it is the solemn duty of the state to provide basic education to children also working in different industries or factories and the Court directed the government to take such steps and evolve schemes ensuring education to all children either by the industry itself or in coordination with it.

Feature of Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009

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Presently, as a fundamental right, the provision of free and compulsory education to children was added by the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, and Article 21-A was inserted in the constitution. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE) was passed by the Indian Parliamentary on 4th August 2009. This Act is a milestone that provides for institutional instructions so that education as a fundamental right spread to all children between the age group of 6-14 years. The Act intends to provide full-time elementary education to every child in a formal school, which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. Private education institutions must reserve 25% of their seats starting from Class I. Strict criteria for the qualification of teachers is also one of the important provisions. There is a requirement of a teacher-student ratio of 1:30 at each of these schools that is to be met within a given time frame. The school needs to have certain basic facilities like adequate teachers, playgrounds and infrastructure, etc. The Government shall evolve some mechanism to help marginalized schools comply with the provisions of the Act. Moreover, the concept of neighbourhood schools has been devised. This would imply that the state government and local authorities will establish primary schools within walking distance of one kilometre of the neighbourhood. In the case of children for classes VI to VIII, the school should be within a walking distance of three kilometres of the neighbourhood. Moreover, unaided and private schools shall ensure that children from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups shall not be segregated from the other children in the classrooms nor shall their classes be held at places and timings different. While highlighting the main aspects of the Right to Education Act 2009, there are certain limitations such as children below the age group of six are not covered within it; Act fails to promote a common school system; lack of provisions for children with disabilities; no set criteria for reservations of seats; financial assistance; provision regarding reimbursement to the private school; lack of clear cut provision for competent authority; assuring quality standards; action against government authorities in case of negligence in services, etc.

Conclusion

The Right to Education Act also does not speak about millions of children who are in the age group below five years. There must be appropriate provisions for penalties for those flouting norms. Families and communities need to play a vital role to make the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 a major success in India. Mental disorder children also need basic facilities or necessary training and mental development schemes to be at once launched. As per the Act, existing schools were also required to make basic infrastructures available within three years of enforcement of the Act. But unfortunately, five years have already passed after the enforcement of the RTE Act, still, the majority of schools are lacking the requisite infrastructures in India. The government should immediately take action to ensure all the basic facilities in the school like proper food, drinking water, sanitation, library, playground, etc. Besides these necessities, the schools must also provide proper teaching by way of visual aids, globes, charts, pictures, through projects, etc. They must also ensure co-curricular activities, excursions, paintings, games, dance, music, quizzes to attract the students and help them in their personality development. At the government level, the allocation of funds required for effective implementation of free and compulsory education as per the RTE Act 2009 should be estimated by the department. The allocation must be planned in distinct phases. There is a great need for coordinating with various government departments for effective implementation of government programs and to avoid duplication of beneficiaries, fund utilization, etc. At last, but not least, the existing monitoring system may be streamlined and a comprehensive monitoring system that investigates academics and administration should be designed to achieve the desired objectives.


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