Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009
The Right to Education was declared a fundamental Right in 2002 by the 86th Amendment Act which introduced Article 21A, the right of children to free and compulsory education in Part III of the Indian Constitution.

This amendment came after the verdict by the Supreme Court on the famous Unni Krishnan J.P versus The State of Andhra PRadhes and others case of 1993. A college management was seeking enforcement of their right to business through the charging of “capitation” fees from students seeking admission. The court expressly denied this claim and proceeded to examine the nature of the right to education. Before the amendment Right to Education featured in the Directive Principles of State Policy, including Article 45 which provides that the state is to endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of the Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children under the age of 14.It is important to note that the right to edication was introduced as Article 21A flowing from Article 21, The Funadamental Right to Life.

Eight years after the Right to Education became a fundamental right, the government introduced the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) to guarantee that every child between the age of six and 14 years of age can enjoy free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school till completion of elementary education. The Act lays down the role and responsibility of all the stakeholders who contribute towards a child’s education- government, school and parents.

Key highlights of the RTE Act
  • Education for children between six and 14 years is free in government and government-
  • aided schools
  • No child or parent is liable to pay a capitation fee during admission in any schools. Other than the school fees it is illegal for a school to demand any other fee or donation from the parents.
  • A child above six and out of school will be admitted to an age-appropriate class. Special help must be provided by the school to the child if necessary. 
  • No school can deny a child school-leaving or transfer certificate. A delay or failure in providing the transfer certificate by the school is a strong reason for disciplinary action against the school.
  • For children with disability, the state should encourage their inclusion into regular mainstream schools.
Duties of the Government
  • The duties of the Central and State governments are largely to do with policy making, budgeting, setting a national framework for teacher training, curriculums and education policy. They also have to overlook and monitor the implementation of the Act by the local governments. 
  • It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all children within their jurisdiction have access to a school within 1km of their residence. 
  • Provide infrastructure, school building, teaching staff and learning equipment 
  • Ensure there is no discrimination against children from economically backward classes and disadvantaged groups like scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. 
  • Maintain records of all children between six and 14 years of age
  • The government is expected to make necessary arrangements for pre-school education in order to prepare children for elemntary education and encourage early-childhood care and education.
Duties of the school

  • All schools have to be recognised and registered with the government. An unregistered school is illegal and subject to closure. 
  • Government and government aided schools must provide free and compulsory education to children between six and fourteen years.
  • Private schools are obliged to reserve at least 25% of their seats for children from the weaker (economically backward and children with disability) and disadvantaged (Sc/ST/OBC) groups of society.
  • Minority schools are currently exempt from such a provision
  • Collection of capitation fee by a school is punishable by law and could extend to a fine which is ten times the number of the fee demanded. 
  • No child will be detained till completion of elementary education ie. Std viii
  • Every school has to appoint a School Managing Committee with at least three fourth of its members being parents and half of the committee being women.
Implemantation and Protection

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the State Commission for 

  • Protection of Child Rights will address grievances related to the violation of a child’s right to education
  • It is the responsibility of the Central and State Government to implement the provisions of the Act and ensure a smooth transition into the new system.
  • The government had set a deadline of three years from the enforcement of the Act to be implemented in all districts and schools but the government and schools have failed to do so. 

To read the Act in detail, click here.

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