New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) The Supreme Court upholding the constitutional validity of the right to education act and mandating that unaided private schools keep 25 percent seats for students from economically and socially weaker sections has been welcomed by the government, but schools have expressed their reservations over the verdict.
The apex court court made it clear that the quota would not be applicable to unaided minority institutions.
An apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Swatanter Kumar upheld the constitutional validity of Section 12 1C of the right to education act that provides 25 percent reservation for students from the weaker sections of society.
"I thank the Supreme Court which has given direction to be followed by the government. The policies under the act should be child centric and not institution centric... Big schools can surely take this burden," Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters Thursday, welcoming the verdict.
Holding the same view, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Shanta Sinha said: "It is a historic judgment. I think it is good for all children, rich or poor. I think it is good for the poor as disparities between them and other children will be bridged and there will be greater sharing of culture, values and constitutional values of equality and justice in schools."
The court said the judgment will come into force from Thursday itself, but the admissions already made will not be disturbed.
The Supreme Court was giving its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the RTE law that requires private schools to earmark 25 percent seats for poorer students.
Some private schools in the capital expressed reservations over the verdict saying that the government wants to "abdicate its responsibility".
"It seems that the government wants to abdicate its responsibility and pass the buck to private schools. The government does not want to give us subsidies, and then it wants private schools to reserve 25 percent seats for poor children," the principal of Tagore International School, Madhulika Sen, told IANS.
"Why are government schools not up to the mark? The RTE act is good in spirit but flawed in implementation," Sen said.
The principal of Springdales School, Ameeta Wattal, said that there is need for holistic approach for streamlining education in the country.
"The government needs to improve the infrastructure of government schools and should not think that the onus of education of students is only on private schools," Wattal told IANS.
Ambarish Rai, convener of RTE Forum, said in a statement : "We welcome this decision as a step towards bringing in greater equality of opportunity for all children in India."
A batch of petitions by the Society for Unaided Private Schools, Independent Schools Federation of India and others had contested the provision in the law under which they had to reserve 25 percent seats for economically weaker sections in their schools.
The schools contended that the reservation for children from vulnerable sections of society violated their right to run educational institutions without the state's interference.
The schools' contention that reserving seats for poor students would drain their resources was contested by the government.
Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, in a dissenting judgment, held that the mandate under RTE providing for reservation of seats was not constitutionally valid, thus none of the unaided schools, be it majority or minority, could be compelled to earmark 25 percent seats in their institutions for weaker sections.
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