The Supreme Court has sought response from the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of provisions of RTE Act, mandating unaided private schools to reserve 25 per cent in nursery classes to children from weaker sections. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar issued notice to the Union government and Uttar Pradesh government seeking their reply to the PIL in four weeks. The plea has been filed by petitioner NGO Independent Schools Federation of India which said that the apex court has upheld the validity of 25 per cent reservation in private schools for the children between the age group of 6 to 14 years.
He claimed that even after the apex court verdict, the states are forcing private schools to also admit children below the age of six years in nursery classes despite that there is no constitutional obligation. “Any such extension of reservation to children below the age of 6 years would re-open challenge to such 25 per cent reservation as there is no such constitutional obligation under Article 21-A of Constitution,” advocate Ravi Prakash Gupta appearing for the NGO said.
The petitioner NGO has also challenged other provisions of Right to Education Act which define ‘disadvanataged groups’ and ‘weaker section’ and give power to the states to declare any group of children as belonging to backward classes. It has been contended in the PIL that by 93rd Constitutional amendment, Parliament has been empowered to make reservations with respect to private schools only in favour of backward classes and SC and ST.
But by the RTE Act the benefit has been extended to any class of persons so declared by states to be belonging to ‘disadvanataged groups’ which is impermissible as per the Constitution. It said that reservation in favour of weaker section is prone to abuse by authorities as 95 per cent people in India transact in cash and do not file IT returns.
The plea has contended that states do not have power to identify any backward class and the power only rests with backward class commission whose report shall be presented in Parliament. But under the RTE Act, states have been “unconstitutionally” given power which may lead to political appeasement of any group or class, it said.