New Delhi: The Supreme Court is expected to decide whether it should be mandatory for private schools to provide free education to children from economically weaker sections till class 8 as mentioned in the Right to Education Act.
The Act also asks private schools to reserve 25 per cent seats for such children. The court will decide on the validity of this and other key provisions.
A bench comprising Chief Justice SH Kapadia and justices KS Radhakrishnan and Swantanter Kumar, which had reserved its verdict on August 3 last year, would also decide the validity of provisions of the law which made right to education a fundamental right of children in the age group of 6 to 14 years.
The apex court order will come in response to a host of petitions filed by private instutions challenging the Act for violating their autonomy.
During the marathon arguments in the case which went for many months, the Centre had defended the law saying it was aimed at uplifting the socially and economically weaker section of society.
The Centre had emphasised the need to de-link merit and talent from social and economic differences among different sections of society and said that the act calls for "moving towards composite classrooms with children from diverse backgrounds, rather than homogeneous and exclusivist schools".
The main petitioner Society for Un-aided Private Schools, Rajasthan, and a host of associations representing various private schools questioned the validity of the Act on the ground that it impinged on their rights to run the educational institutions.
The law was brought by introducing Article 21(A) in the Constitution which says the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years in such a manner as the state may, by law, determine.
The petitions had contended that the RTE Act, 2009, is "unconstitutional" and "violative" of fundamental rights.
The petitioners had cited the Supreme Court's 11-judge Constitution bench ruling in TMA Pai case wherein it was ruled that maximum autonomy should be provided to private educational institutions.
According to the petitioners, Section 3 of the Act imposed an absolute mandate on all schools, including private unaided and minority institutions, to admit without any choice each and every child whosoever comes to take admission in the schools in the neighbourhood.
The provision prohibits any type of screening which is necessary for admission, the petitioners said.
(With additional information from PTI)