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Extending RTE Act beyond class 8 policy decision, to be considered after new govt formed: HC told

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Centre on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that extension ofE Act beyond class VIII in schools is a "major policy issue" which could only be decided after the new government is formed post general elections.

The central government made the submission in an affidavit filed in response to a pending PIL seeking free education for students from the economically weaker sections (EWS) and disadvantaged groups (DG) up to class 12 in private unaided schools.

The affidavit filed by an officer of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) said the proposal in this regard has been submitted for in-principle decision of the central government.

As per section 3 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, every child of the age of six to 14 years shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till the completion of his or her elementary education(class VIII).

The matter along with the affidavit is likely to come up for hearing before a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani.

"As mentioned in ... And considering the fact that education is in Concurrent List of Constitution, the extension ofE Act beyond elementary level is a major policy issue which could only be decided once the new government is formed after the general elections. However, the proposal in this regard has been submitted for in-principle decision of the central government," the affidavit said.

In case of an amendment to the Constitution, consultations with all State and Union Territories (UT) governments will be required, it said.

Further, Section 7(1) of theE Act prescribes that "The Central government and the state governments shall have concurrent responsibility for providing funds for carrying out the provisions of this Act", and this emphasises that the involvement of all states and UT governments will be necessary, it added.

The court had earlier sought replies of the HRD ministry and the Delhi government on the plea filed by NGO Social Jurist which has claimed that the students admitted in private unaided schools under the EWS and DG categories are being asked to pay fee or leave after they complete Class 8.

The NGO, in its petition filed through advocate Ashok Agarwal, has sought an amendment to theE Act, 2009 to provide free education to poor and disadvantaged kids up to Class 12 in private unaided schools.

The HRD ministry, in its response, said it was clear that the prayer to extend the section 12(1)(c) of theE Act to ensure free and compulsory education to disadvantageous and weaker groups of students beyond elementary level in private unaided schools from all perspectives and the final decision will be a "policy decision".

"The Act derives its power from 86th Constitutional amendment which has made elementary education a fundamental right for all children of age group 6 to 14 years.

"Section 12(1)(c) is part of theE Act, therefore, any extension or amendment in this particular section of the Act will need to be examined in the context of the wholeE Act as the Act is made for all children and not merely a particular group of children," it said.

The affidavit states that till the time decision is taken by the Centre, the Delhi government has been requested to consider approaching those private unaided schools, where children have been admitted under theE Act and who have passed out of class VIII, to be allowed to continue in such private schools which are not situated on public land, beyond elementary level.

Agarwal had earlier told the court that the Delhi government, under its Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, had ensured that the EWS and DG students studying in private unaided schools situated on public land were allowed to continue up to Class 12.

"However, this benefit is not available to the EWS/DG students studying in private unaided schools not located on a public land," the NGO has said in its plea.

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