Right to Education
In Pramati Educational & Cultural Trust & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors, or the Pramati Judgment as it is popularly known as, the validity of article 15(5) and article 21A was questioned. The parliament in the year 2005 inserted a clause 5 in article 15 of the constitution by Ninety-Third Amendment Act, 2005.It authorised the state to make special provision by law for the Socially and educationally backward classes or Schedule Caste or Schedule Tribes regarding their admission to educational institutions. These included private educational institutions aided as well as unaided by the state. However, it excluded the minority educational institutions from it. (This means that state cannot make any special law regarding admissions in minority educational institutions for SEBCs, SC or STs).
Since this clause put a reservation in the Private educational institutions which were not funded by the government as well, petitions were filed to strike it down and declare it unconstitutional. The matter of private aided institutions was considered in a previous judgement and was held to be valid. (Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India & Ors. [(2008) 6 SCC 1]).
The court held that it was enabling provision to make equality of opportunity promised in the Preamble in the Constitution a reality – hence, valid and constitutional.
Article 21A is titled ‘Right to Education’ and it provides that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
Accordingly, the 2009 Act was enacted by Parliament to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years. The validity of the 2009 Act was challenged and considered in Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan v. Union of India & Anr. by a three-Judge Bench of this Court. It was held that the 2009 Act is constitutionally valid and shall apply to the inter-alia : an unaided non-minority school not receiving any kind of aid or grants to meet its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority.
In the Pramati judgement it was held that the 2009 Act insofar as it applies to minority schools, aided or unaided, covered under clause (1) of Article 30 of the Constitution is ultra vires the Constitution. In other words, poor students (from majority section) cannot claim 25% reservation in minority schools, despite what RTE says. It is significant in a way that it has curtailed the right of the state to implement the Right to education. The State’s power to enforce reservation under article 15(5), article 21A or RTE, is not absolute.