Upholding the validity of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will not apply to aided or unaided minority schools and they are not bound to give 25 per cent seats reserved for the children of economically weaker section.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said that minority institutions were outside the ambit of the RTE Act and also upheld the constitutional validity of the social welfare legislation enacted with Constitutional amendments which places an obligation on unaided private schools to reserve 25 per cent seats for such wards.
It also upheld Articles 15(5) and 21A, by virtue of which unaided private schools are also obligated to reserve 25 per cent seats for students from weaker sections.
The court order came on a bunch of petitions by the Karnataka-based institutions. They have contended that a three-judge bench ruling on the validity of the RTE Act did not deal with the constitutional validity of these provisions in its April 2012 verdict.
The bench, by a 2:1 majority verdict, had shot down a challenge to the validity of the RTE, consequently obligating private unaided schools to reserve seats.
The dissenting judgment by Justice K S Radhakrishnan however had held that the mandate under the RTE Act providing for reservation of seats was not constitutionally valid, and thus the unaided schools, whether majority or minority, could not be compelled to earmark 25 per cent seats in their institutions.
He had said that such quota in respect of the unaided non-minority and minority institutions, and held that it can be given effect to "only on the principles of voluntariness, autonomy and consensus and not on compulsion or threat of non-recognition or non-affiliation."
On August 23, 2013, a three-judge bench had referred the issue to a five-judge bench because it involved a vital constitutional question of law relating to the rights of unaided private educational institutions.
The petitioners had contended that the earlier rulings had stated such interference would violate Articles 14, 15(1), 19(1)(g) and 21. The right to education law was enacted by Parliament in 2009 by inserting Article 21A to provide free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years.