Saturday, January 25, 2014

Private unaided minority schools not under RTE: HC

Private unaided minority schools not under RTE: HC

Shibu Thomas & Shreya Bhandary, TNN Dec 25, 2013, 01.58AM IST

MUMBAI: Unaided minority schools which do not get direct monetary or salary grants from the government do not have to reserve 25% seats for poor students under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the Bombay HC ruled on Tuesday.
A division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Revati Dere dismissed the state's contention that getting tax concessions and land at concessional rates from the government means these institutions fall in the category of aided schools. For private unaided minority schools, including many in Mumbai, the high court verdict provided a huge relief.
Religious and linguistic minority schools from Pune, including Saraswati Vidyalaya, St Mary's School and Bishop's Education Society, had moved the HC against a zilla parishad order staying admissions for the year 2013-14. The ZP said the schools had not adhered to provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, which mandates that schools keep 25% seats for students from poorer sections of society.
The court, in an interim order, had allowed the schools to proceed with the admissions, but asked them to keep 25% seats vacant.
Arguing their case, the schools pointed to a 2012 Supreme Court judgment which held that the RTE Act was not applicable to unaided minority institutions.
For their part, government pleader S Shinde and assistant government pleader A B Vagyani said the schools received various benefits from the central and state governments, including land on lease at concessional rates as well as concessions in water, property and other taxes. The government lawyers argued that all these constituted aid. But the court did not agree with the government view.
Unaided minority schools in Mumbai celebrated the judgment on Tuesday. Despite the apex court's order in 2012, the government and other bodies were prodding some unaided minority schools to follow the 25% reservation rule, they said. "Though the SC decision made a clear distinction for us, some institutions were still being targeted and forced to admit students under the reservation clause. We are glad the HC has clarified this," said Rohan Bhatt, chairperson of the Children's Academy group of schools.
For schools, it was another major problem out of the way. The state education department had recently issued a circular banning admissions in all schools until April next year. But the ban was lifted last week. "The high court order makes it clear that we don't have to wait for the education department to release a schedule to conduct admissions. We can admit students as per our yearly schedule and not be harassed by the education department," said the principal of an ICSE school in Malad.

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