Nagpur: Firdos Mirza is a well-known city lawyer and has a grasp of issues related to education. With the Right to Education (RTE) fiasco not showing any signs of abating, Mirza shares his view about the issue.
Q. State has asked to reserve seats under RTE at nursery level too but reimburses only for primary section onwards. Isn’t this unjustified?
A. Section 12 of RTE Act prescribes the extent of schools’ responsibility for free and compulsory education and mandates for admission of children of specified groups up to at least 25% of the class strength. This Section does not prescribe for admission at nursery level. The Act provides for reimbursement of fees only from Std 1 onwards. But Section 11 shoulders the responsibility for preschool education on the state government. By framing rules, the Maharashtra government had transferred this responsibility on the schools without reimbursement of fees because there is no provision for reimbursement for preschool in the Act. One important aspect needs to be considered here is that as per Article 21 A of the Constitution of India and Section 3 of the RTE Act, a child aged between 6 and 14 only has right to free and compulsory education. The children attending nursery do not fall under this category. According to me, mandate of the state to reserve seats at nursery level is unjustified.
Q. Schools in Nagpur are afraid to take the education department to court over the arm-twisting and questionable directions over RTE admissions. Many feel cases prolong and this hampers their academic work.
A. This fear is not factual. Day in and day out we see schools litigating against the education department. Earlier, the Constitutional validity of Section 12 was challenged by the schools up to the level of Hon’ble Supreme Court and this provision is declared un-Constitutional for the minority institutions. In our Constitutional set-up, every citizen of India has the right to knock the judiciary’s doors if injustice is caused to it or the government is acting contrary to law. Such matters do not get prolonged if properly litigated.
Q. The latest issue is the state education department mandating that the schools have to give RTE quota admissions in both pre-primary and primary section simultaneously. Schools argue this effectively amounts to 50% RTE quota, rather than 25%. How can schools counter this?
A. Part answer to this question is in answer to question no. 1, the schools should make representation to the state government pointing out that pre-primary classes do not come within purview of the RTE Act and thus request for withdrawal of those directions. If the state does not act accordingly, then the schools need to approach the court of law seeking justice.
Q. The state is yet to reimburse schools for the free RTE admissions they gave since 2012. In this case, can schools simply stop admissions as government has not honoured its side of commitment?
A. In view of Section 12 of RTE Act quoted above, the schools cannot stop admissions because as per Act, it is their responsibility. By stopping admissions, they are attracting action of derecognition. Section 12(2) makes it mandatory for the state to reimburse the expenditure. The rules framed by the state government in 2012 prescribes that the reimbursement shall be made in two instalments, first due after October 30 and second after April 30 of the academic year. If the state has failed to perform its above statutory obligation, the schools need to protest with it by making the representation and approach the court as early as possible for getting their money
Source: Times of India