Unaided minority schools too come under RTE

State sets condition for exemption

Unaided minority schools in Karnataka will not enjoy automatic exemption from giving 25 per cent of the total seats, under the Right to Education Act, to students from economically and socially weaker (ESW) sections without charging any fee.  

In a contentious move on Friday, the State government decided that unaided minority schools in the State will have to offer 75 per cent of the total available seats to students from their respective communities to avail exemption from compulsorily giving 25 per cent seats to students from ESW sections under the RTE Act.  

The unaided minority institutions not offering 75 per cent of the seats to children from their respective communities will, therefore, have to set aside 25 per cent of the seats for free education to students from ESW sections.

Briefing the media on a decision taken in this regard at a meeting of the State Cabinet during the day, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Vishweshwara Hegde Kageri said the Supreme Court had defined that ‘minority institutions’ should have a “handful” or “sprinkling” of non-minority students, while the remaining students should belong to minority categories concerned.

The minister said since the apex court had not indicated any percentage of enrollment for minority communities in unaided minority institutions, it was left to the State governments to define this. Kageri also indicated that this new definition will be applicable from next year. “Admission processes have already been completed. It would be difficult to enfo­rce it (the decision) this year,” he said.

However, the decision is bo­u­nd to be challenged by unaided minority schools on the ground that the April 12, 2012 judgment of the apex co­u­rt had categorically exempted th­em from the RTE Act’s purview. The judgment had held that the Fundamental Rights enjoyed by minority institutions under Article 30 (1) of the Constitution were absolute, and not subject to any reasonable restrictions.  The apex court judgment stated that “Sections 12(1) (C) and 18 (3) (of the RTE Act) infringes fundamental freedom guaranteed to unaided minority schools under Article 31(1) (of the Constitution) and, consequently ……. the said 2009 (RTE) Act shall not apply to such schools”.

Why 75 pc?

Kageri did not explain the logic behind fixing the 75 per cent ceiling for the exemption.  Official said that it would have been better if it was 50 per cent, the ceiling apparently followed in Tamil Nadu for many years.

But, the Supreme Court judgment has not specified that in a minority school, the student population should be a minimum of 75 per cent or any other percentage.  

The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, 2004, defined those who can run minority institutions. But it is silent on the composition of the student population in these institutions.

In the year 2000, the State government issued a circular stating the management of a minority school should predominantly consist of minorities. In 2006, an amendment to the circular was issued, saying that the reservation for minority students in minority institutions should be proportional to the population of the concerned minority community in area where the institution operates.

After the Supreme Court ruled that RTE should be implemented from this year onwards, the state education department had favoured a 50 per cent quota for minorities to enjoy the minority institution status.

However, going by the Supreme Court’s RTE judgment, there are question marks if these stipulations would hold ground. The judgment pointed out that legal and constitutional position in this regard stood changed in the wake of an amendment to Article 15 of the Constitution in 2005 by way of the insertion of clause 15(5). The judgment concluded that the new provision provided special protection to unaided minority schools.

Following Kageri’s announcement, official sources told Deccan Herald that a government order defining the ‘minority’ for the RTE Act implementation would be issued in a couple of days. However, the order may be only applicable to new schools to be set up and not to the existing ones.

Comments (+)