Case Title: Md Imran Ahmad and ors vs Union of India and ors.
A division bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna issued notice in a petition seeking the enforcement of Section 12(1) (c) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, emphasising on the issue of the pre-matric scholarship scheme’s withdrawal for minorities. According to the petitioner, doing so would reduce the financial burden on minorities and encourage them to complete their school education.
RTE Act, made education a legal right and the State liable for providing quality education to children. Section 12(1)(c) of the Act levies a legal obligation on unaided private schools to reserve 25 percent of their entry-level seats for children belonging to economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups. However, each state has modified the model guidelines and framed its own set of implementation processes.
According to the petitioner, the impact of non-enforcement would be higher on the members of religious minorities and that only 18 states haveadmitted children under section 12 (1)(c). He submitted that the provision was not enforced across the other states.
The Bench questioned the petitioner as to why he had raised the issue of RTE only for minority communities. “What do you mean by weaker sections? Is there a definition?” the Bench enquired while questioning why the majority community was omitted. Persons of every community that come from the weaker sections should be able to avail the benefit. The Bench observed that the prayers in the petition concerned religious minorities in all states.
The Bench observed that religion is important only when it is relevant under the law. In other respects, the nation is secular. In all pursuits, the same spirit has to be imbibed on the parts of both the citizens and the State. The Bench suggested the petitioner’s advocate that he files a fresh plea.
The provision aimed to create a more integrated and inclusive schooling system. However, by far, the enforcement experience of Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE has not been very fruitful. Several states and union territories have not enforced this provision. Moreover, the experiences of the states that execute this provision reflect significant gaps. Its application has also gone through a number of litigations. The provision was initially challenged in the Supreme Court and after April 2012, when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the Act through its judgement, section 12 (1)(c) became applicable.