If willing, government can do anything, says SC

New Delhi, Sep 11: The Supreme Court Thursday said it was the responsibility of the government to open schools for the effective enforcement of the Right to Education that provides for compulsory education for all school-going children in the age group of six to 14 years.

The bench of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said this during the hearing of a petition by Vibgyor School - a minority school run by the Parsi community - challenging the Karnataka High Court order to admit 26 students under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

The court will hear the matter Nov 10 as it stayed the operation of the high court order directing admission of students under the RTE Act.

The Act mandates earmarking of 25 percent admissions for the SC/ST and other weaker disadvantaged sections of the society.

Issuing notice to the Karnataka government, Justice Dave said nothing could stop a government from doing a thing it wanted to.

Justice Dave said he came from Vadodara (formerly Baroda) which was earlier ruled by the Gaekwad clan.

He said that during the reign of Sayajirao Gaekwad, every village had schools and every child be it a boy or a girl had to study.

Every village also had a library, a gymnasium and a doctor.

If there was a village without a school, library, gymnasium or a doctor, Justice Dave said it was assumed that it was not under the jurisdiction of the Gaekwad rulers.

He said his own grandmother studied up to Class 7 in the village school. She could not study more as there was no practice for people to go outside for studies.

Appearing for the aggrieved school, counsel T.R. Andhyarijuna told the court it was an old minority institution run by the Parsis and was covered by the constitution bench judgment that exempts aided and unaided minority institutions from the ambit of the RTE Act.

He said that merely because the petitioner school did not have a certificate of being a minority institution from the National Commission of Minorities or the state government or a competent authority, it would not erase its minority character.

The counsel said India has a number of century-old minority institutions and their minority status could not be taken away merely because they do not have a certificate from the competent authorities.

The RTE Act imposes 25 percent reservation for disadvantaged groups. The constitution bench of the apex court by its May 6, 2014, judgment upheld this reservation and said it would not extend to aided and unaided minority institutions.

Vibgyor School challenged the Sep 4 order of the Karnataka High Court which directed it and six other schools to admit students who had applied and were selected by the government under the RTE Act.

The high court had held that these schools could not refuse admission to these students by claiming that they were minority institutions and thus were outside the ambit of the RTE Act, without a certificate by a competent authority backing their claim.


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