A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Articles 15(5) and 21-A of the Constitution in so far as it relates to private unaided educational institutions to provide compulsory education for children in the age group of 6 to 14 years.
The Court, however, ruled that The Right to Education (RTE) Act (under Article 21-A of the Constitution) will not be applicable to aided or unaided minority schools. The Court said though RTE Act is constitutionally valid, such schools cannot be obligated to reserve 25 per cent seats for students from socially and economically weaker sections of the society.
“We hold that the Constitution (Ninetythird Amendment) Act, 2005 inserting clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution and the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 inserting Article 21A of the Constitution do not alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution and are constitutionally valid. We also hold that the 2009 Act is not ultra vires Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. We, however, hold 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”, a 5-judge Bench said.
The Court, further said, “In our view, all freedoms under which Article 19(1) of the Constitution, including the freedom under Article 19(1)(g), have a voluntary element but this voluntariness in all the freedoms in Article 19(1) of the Constitution can be subjected to reasonable restrictions imposed by the State by law under clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19 of the Constitution. Hence, the voluntary nature of the right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution can be subjected to reasonable restrictions imposed by the State by law under clause (6) of Article 19 of the Constitution.”
The Constitution 93rd Amendment Act, 2005, inserting clause (5) in Article 15 enables the State to make special provisions for members of the SCs, STs and socially and educationally backward classes, for admission to all educational institutions, including private unaided institutions, but except minority institutions. The right to education law was enacted by Parliament in 2009 by inserting Article 21A to provide free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years.