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Minority bodies off school law hook

New Delhi, May 6: A five-judge Constitution bench today upheld the validity of the Right to Education Act, 2009, which provides for free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years, but ruled that the law would not apply to minority institutions.

The court also dismissed a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Article 15(5) which provides for reservation for the Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

Minority institutions, aided or unaided, are exempt because Article 30(1) grants them special privileges to run their affairs without any fetters from the government, the court said. If the right to education law is applied to them, “the right of the minorities under Article 30(1) of the Constitution will be abrogated”, it added.

By excluding the minority institutions from the right to education law and reservation benefits, “the secular character of India is maintained and not destroyed”, as alleged by some, the court said.

The bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices A.K. Patnaik, S.J. Mukhopadhaya, Dipak Misra and Ibrahim Kalifulla said the state can impose admissions on private unaided schools as long as it is for the purpose of providing free and compulsory education to children from six to 14.

“So long as such law forces admission of children of poorer, weaker and backward sections of the society to a small percentage of the seats in private educational institutions to achieve the constitutional goals of equality of opportunity and social justice set out in the Preamble of the Constitution, such a law would not be destructive of the right of the private unaided educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution,” the court said.

The institutions had argued that their right to practise any profession or trade, guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g), was being violated.