The High Court of Karnataka has observed that the government's failure to provide basic infrastructure in schools is pushing people who cannot even afford three meals a day to send their children to private schools.
"Is education reserved for the privileged," the HC bench of Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit questioned while hearing a public interest litigation initiated by the court in 2013 based on media reports about children who were left out of the schooling system.
The court said that the deficiencies in government schools regarding the lack of restrooms and drinking water facilities were brought to its notice in 2013 but action has been lacking.
Till date, 464 government schools lack restrooms and 32 do not have drinking water facilities, the court pointed out.
Expressing its displeasure at the government's inaction, the court directed that an affidavit on providing basic facilities in all schools should be filed within eight weeks.
"Is it for us to tell all this to the state? This has been going on for so many years. There must have been some amount shown in the budget for the schooling and education department. What happens to that amount," the court said on Monday.
During the hearing, while referring to the state government's free schemes for the poor, the court said it had no qualms about such measures but providing necessary facilities and infrastructure in schools where poor students study should be of paramount importance.
"Education is a fundamental right. But governments have failed to provide the facilities in government schools which are turning the poor towards private schools," the court said. This was indirectly helping private schools, it said.
"Because of the lack of basic facilities, the government schools are closed. On the other hand, as there is no other option, parents even when they are financially not well or sound are left with no choice but to admit their wards to the alternate private schools. The learned counsel is also justified in submitting that such a situation frustrates the object of making primary education a fundamental right as ensured in the Constitution of India," the court recorded in its order.
The High Court said that Babasaheb Ambedkar is shown with a book in every image of his which was to show the importance of education. Many developed countries spend more on education than on defence, the court observed.
Allowing time for the comprehensive report by the government, the court recorded that, "The government advocate submits that as the copy of the report prepared by the learned amicus is handed over to her, she will personally look into it and call up the concerned government officials."