ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hollowing Out the Right to Education

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 aims to ensure inclusive education by requiring private educational institutions to admit students of economically weaker sections as part of the fundamental right to education. However, the existence of the act has never been free of state government and judicial attempts to dilute its beneficial provisions. The latest attempt by the Karnataka state government, upheld by the state high court, threatens to nullify the provision completely.

A recent division bench judgment of the Karnataka High Court, Education Rights Trust v Government of Karnataka (2019), has effectively put an end to the hopes of lakhs of children belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS) from gaining admission to unaided private schools. The high court dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional and legal validity of Rule 4 of the Karnataka Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2012 which imposed certain preconditions for children from the EWS category to avail admissions to private schools. Rule 4, as amended in January 2019, requires that any child seeking admission to a private school—under the quota provided under Section 12(1)(c) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act)—must not have a government school or aided school in the “neighbourhood.”

Even before the judgment of the high court was delivered, the operation of this rule had dramatically reduced the number of private school seats open for children from the EWS. From about 1.52 lakh available seats in the academic year 2018–19, the number dropped to around 5,000 in the academic year 2019–20, a sharp fall of over 96% (Kulkarni 2019). The high court’s judgment put a seal of approval on this large-scale exclusion of underprivileged children from school.

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Updated On : 26th Jun, 2019

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