Maharashtra RTE Rule Change Challenged In High Court

Maharashtra RTE Rule Change Challenged In High Court

The petitioners have claimed that the change in rules violates the constitutional right to education for children aged six to 14.

Musab QaziUpdated: Thursday, April 25, 2024, 01:47 AM IST
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Bombay High Court | File

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed at the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court (HC) against the Maharashtra government’s amendment to the state Right to Education (RTE) Rules exempting private unaided schools in the vicinity of government-supported schools from having to reserve their 25% seats for economically weaker and disadvantaged children.

The petitioners have claimed that the change in rules violates the constitutional right to education for children aged six to 14. They also contend the state’s decision is contrary to the RTE Act’s objective of providing an inclusive education, while diluting the private schools’ responsibility of educating marginalised students. The decision is institute-centric, and child-centric, argues the petition.

The plea, filed by Yavatmal-based Parivartan Samajik Bahuddeshiya Sanstha and three others, was heard on Wednesday by a bench of justices Nitin Sambre and Ajay Mantri, which sought a reply from the principal secretary of the state School Education Department by May 8.

Changes To RTE Rules Impacting Seat Reservations In Private Schools

Under the RTE Act, 25% of the seats at the entry point – Class 1 or pre-primary section – in private unaided schools should be reserved for children from economically weaker and disadvantaged sections. These students get education free of cost, while the government reimburses their tuition fees to schools. Schools run by religious and linguistic minorities are exempted from this requirement.

However, earlier this year, the government changed the RTE rules to exempt the private unaided schools that are located within one-kilometre radius of government and aided schools from having to set aside 25% of their seats for the marginalised students. Under the revised norms, the parents will first be allotted seats in government and aided schools in their vicinity, with the private unaided schools being made available only if no government-supported seats are available.

Conflict Between Government's Objectives And RTE Bill's Intentions

The move is aimed at promoting government schools and limit the state’s expenditure on reimbursements. The government has been targeted by private schools for failing to clear its dues.

However, the petitioners point out that the statement of object and reason of the RTE Bill 2008 laid down that the legislation aimed to provide inclusive elementary education, with both the government-supported and unaided schools being responsible for ensuring free and compulsory quality education. The state’s notification changing its rules defeats this purpose, they claimed.

Argument For Inclusive Education And Child-Centric Approach Under RTE Act

“The private unaided education institutions are roped in the RTE Act 2009, not because of a lack of sufficient government-run or government-aided schools but because of the principle of social inclusion and for providing satisfactory quality education. The exemption provided under the impugned notification to unaided private school is unreasonable," reads the petition.

Citing a 2016 judgment by Himachal Pradesh High Court, the petitioners argued that there should be no hierarchy or condition for the availing benefits under Section 12 (1) (C) of the RTE Act 2009, which provides for 25% reservation at unaided schools. It also referred to a Supreme Court (SC) order that says that the right to education is “child-centric and not institution-centric”.

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