New Delhi, Sept. 13: The HRD Ministry has made two provisions of the Right to Education Act applicable to minority institutions despite a Supreme Court directive exempting them from the law.
Armed with advice from the department of legal affairs, the HRD ministry has written to all states asking them to apply the provisions of continuous promotion of students till Class VIII and no corporal punishment to minority institutions.
These institutions enjoy constitutional protection to promote education. Under Article 30 (i) of the Constitution, minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
But the department of legal affairs is of the opinion that these two provisions of the RTE Act do not affect the “substance of the guaranteed rights to administer educational institutions”.
Accordingly, the August 27 letter sent to all state education secretaries reads: “… the regulatory provisions as provided in the RTE Act appear to be applicable to minority institutions in terms of Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India.”
This means minority institutions will have to now mandatorily implement the policies of no-detention up to Class VIII and no corporal punishment.
In April 2012, the Supreme Court had held that unaided minority institutions were exempt from the RTE Act, especially reservation for poorer sections and the power of the government to shut down schools failing to meet required norms.
The judgment implied, however, that the education law was applicable to aided minority schools. Soon after, states started asking these institutions, which got government grants, to implement the provisions of the RTE Act.
In May 2014, the apex court passed another judgment saying both aided and unaided minority institutions were exempt from the education law.
“The Supreme Court decision was meant to protect the rights of minorities as guaranteed under the Constitution. I agree with the government that these two provisions do not take away the rights,” said Ashok Agrawal, a lawyer and activist.
He said the policies of no detention and no corporal punishment were meant to encourage children to study.
Ravi Sagar, an activist working to promote education of minorities in Assam, said: “I do not think any minority school today is following detention policy or corporal punishment. These are healthy practices. Nobody would object to it,” he said.
The HRD ministry consulted the department of legal affairs on a query from Bengal school education secretary Arnab Roy on applicability of child rights norms under the RTE act to minority schools.