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HC verdict on unaided minority schools to be challenged in SC

‘Ambiguities persist over aided and unaided status of schools with primary and secondary sections’

Written by Ardhra Nair | Pune |
December 30, 2013 2:04:26 am

The High Court may have ruled that the Right to Education (RTE) Act does not apply to unaided minority schools even if they have been receiving aids in the form of concessions in property tax and lease of land from the government,but activists feel ambiguities persist on the ‘aided’ and ‘unaided’ status of schools.

One of the major issues on which the HC verdict can have widespread effect,the activists say,is whether schools that have unaided primary and aided secondary sections are liable to reserve 25 per cent students under the RTE Act or not. The respondents are preparing to file a petition in the Supreme Court against the Bombay HC verdict.

“We respect the High Court order. But Right To Education Act 2009 is to protect the interest of the weaker sections of the society. It is a Central government law that the state is bound to implement. In this case,both the state and the Centre declined to give written submissions that were crucial to win the case. If the competent authority itself is not ready to defend the policies made by it in the court of law,the fate of laws made for the benefit of the citizens is in grave danger,” said Ramesh Aiyer,activist and a respondent in the case. “We will challenge the decision in the SC after January 5 once the court reopens,” said Sidharth Dende,PMC corporator who intervened in the case.

The HC ruling had come after a combined hearing of different petitions filed by The Bishop’s Education Society,the Society of St Mary’s School and the Saraswati Vidyalaya Union School among others,seeking relief from the Pune Zilla Parishad order that cancelled admissions for the academic year 2013-14 for alleged violation of the RTE Act.

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In the case of Saraswati Vidyalaya Union School,the court has ruled that the primary classes,which are unaided,and the secondary classes,which are aided,are two different entities,and the former is hence not liable to reserve 25 per cent seats for poor students as required under the RTE Act. “There are too many schools in the city that have such a system. But RTE is applicable to the lowest level of the school. Now,the schools are claiming that primary schools and secondary schools are different. If the lowest level of an aided school is Class V,RTE should be applicable from that class,” said Nilesh Borate,an education activist.

“Everybody is talking about the court ruling that unaided minority schools don’t come under the ambit of the RTE Act. But they were never under the RTE Act. The bone of contention was what comprises of aid. This is what we will challenge in the Supreme Court,” added Borate.

“The government pleader and the attorney solicitor general representing the Centre were both not given any instructions on the stand that they had to take during the trial,which is why the case kept on delaying. Finally,they appeared on their own behalf as officers of court despite getting no advice from the government and argued over the law points,” said Borate.

“An affidavit was filed by the state government in the earlier stages of the case but clauses 7 and 8 in the affidavit that actually talked about what all comes under the term grant-in-aid was withdrawn at a later stage. If the crucial clauses are withdrawn,it means the state has a biased view and is not serious about helping the poor and needy,” said Dende.

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