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Apr 12, 2012 at 11:43am IST

Economically weaker sections will have 25 per cent quota in schools: SC on Right to Education Act

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Constitutional validity of the Right to Education Act, saying that there will be 25 per cent reservation in government, local authority schools and private schools for children from the economically weaker sections of the society.

A bench comprising Chief Justice SH Kapadia and justices KS Radhakrishnan and Swantanter Kumar, which had reserved its verdict on August 3, 2011, upheld the validity of provisions of the law that made the Right to Education a fundamental right of children in the age group of 6 to 14 years.

The RTE Act will be applicable only for day schools and not for boarding schools. The RTE Act will also not be applicable in private minority schools.

The RTE judgement will come into effect from Thursday and the court said prior admissions would not be affected.

Reacting to the judgement, RTE Campaigner and lawyer Ashok Aggarwal said, "I am happy with the judgement. I am hoping that overall it will be a boost to the child centric policy of the government."

The apex court order came in response to a host of petitions filed by private institutions challenging the Act for violating their autonomy.

During the marathon arguments in the case which went for many months, the Centre had defended the law saying it was aimed at uplifting the socially and economically weaker section of society.

The Centre had emphasised the need to de-link merit and talent from social and economic differences among different sections of society and said that the act calls for "moving towards composite classrooms with children from diverse backgrounds, rather than homogeneous and exclusivist schools".

The main petitioner Society for Un-aided Private Schools, Rajasthan, and a host of associations representing various private schools questioned the validity of the Act on the ground that it impinged on their rights to run the educational institutions.

The law was brought by introducing Article 21(A) in the Constitution which says the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years in such a manner as the state may, by law, determine.

The petitions had contended that the RTE Act, 2009, is "unconstitutional" and "violative" of fundamental rights.

The petitioners had cited the Supreme Court's 11-judge Constitution bench ruling in TMA Pai case wherein it was ruled that maximum autonomy should be provided to private educational institutions.

According to the petitioners, Section 3 of the Act imposed an absolute mandate on all schools, including private unaided and minority institutions, to admit without any choice each and every child whosoever comes to take admission in the schools in the neighbourhood.

The provision prohibits any type of screening which is necessary for admission, the petitioners said.

(With additional information from PTI)

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