Saturday, March 23, 2013

Court exposes holes in RTE Act

Court exposes holes in RTE Act

A Subramani, TNN Jul 3, 2012, 03.25AM IST
CHENNAI: Exposing holes in the Centre's showpiece legislation, the Right to Education Act, the Madras high court on Monday expressed its inability to direct schools to admit poor students and give them free education. Dismissing the petitions of five parents who sought the court's help to get their wards admitted in schools of their choice, Justice K Chandru raised questions which have no answers in the Act.
Section 12(C) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 mandates that unaided schools must fill up 25% of their total intake with neighbourhood students from disadvantaged groups. But the court wanted to know: What is a neighbourhood school? Can a parent choose a particular school to stake his right to admission under the weaker section category? Who is empowered to issue directions to the school concerned? Who is to monitor the implementation of the Act? To which class the student could be admitted? Can the school choose its own beneficiaries, and, if so, what method should it adopt?

The parents filed petitions seeking a direction to either identify neighbourhood schools as provided for under the RTE Act or to direct specific schools to admit their children in various classes, including LKG, and provide them with free uniform, education material, books and other material.
Four of the five schools raised several objections to their claim, saying they had already filled up the quota of seats meant for weaker sections of the society. One school said it had filled up the vacancies on first-come-first-served basis and on random basis. Another asked as to why the parents insisted on admission in their school while there were at least five other schools in the neighbourhood.
Refusing to interfere with the admissions done on first-come-first-served basis, Justice Chandru also said the Act clearly stated that the admission should be from Class 1 for the ensuing year. Noting that the Act does not talk about other classes, the judge said: "The Act never contemplated that the school must grant 25% admission in respect of Classes 2 to 8...In those cases, the process of admitting students from disadvantaged group started only from Class 1 and it may grow gradually from Class 1 to Class 8. In cases where there is pre-school education, then it may start from the LKG onwards."
The judge also noted that the petitioners were under the impression that automatically in respect of unaided schools, there will be complete free education including supply of uniform, education materials and books.
As to additional government pleader P Sanjay Gandhi's submissions that a child's right to education is not just a legal right but also a fundamental right, Justice Chandru said, "If there is more than one school in a neighbourhood, as to which school a child can seek admission, which authority can direct admission and who will supervise is not made clear in the Act."

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