Development of Education As A Right in India

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Education is one of the most important human rights. It is important to eradicate poverty and uplift the backward society. Being one of the important human rights, millions of people are deprived of education. It is also recognized by United Nations and UNESCO for laying down international legal obligations. Members of these international organizations are told to implement this rightfully not at least wholly. Emile Durkheim defined

‘Education’: The action exercised by the older generations upon those who are not ready for social life. Its object is to awaken and develop in the child those physical, intellectual and moral states which are required of him / her both by his or society as a whole and by the milieu for which he is specially destined.[1]

The right to education is a universal entitlement to education. This is also recognized by the main international instrument, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a basic human right to right to education in Article 26 “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under Article 13 also recognizes the general right to education enumerated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To eradicate education poverty, the government of India proposed the Right to Education Act (RTE) in 2009. It came into effect on 1 April 2010. It aims to provide free and compulsory education to children of age six to fourteen years under Article 21-A. Ensure that every child has his or her right to get a quality elementary education.

This right also ensures to the provision of basic education for those who have not completed their basic education. Right to education includes the right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all and an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education.

India has a total of 19% of the children population in the world and almost one-third of the illiterate population in the world. India can have the most educated population by using its resources to educate its youth. Education is a powerful tool for the uneducated population to grow and fully participate as citizens.

Additionally, access to educational provision, rules out discrimination at all levels of the educational system, set a minimum standard of education and improves the quality of education. Consequently, the government has launched several integrated scheme from time to time. Although this right has not been fully implied.

The Right to Education Forum’s Stocktaking Report, (2013) shows that progress on the ground has not lived up to expectations. The Right outlined the government’s obligation to guarantee eight years of free, quality education to all children aged six to fourteen years.

Since its enactment, the landmark legislation has promoted considerable progress, but has on the whole failed to deliver on its full promises. Political to ensure timebound implementation has been inadequate and reforms are required to enforce compliance, institutionalize mechanisms of grievance redress, social inclusion and support community oversight.

Judiciary has shown interest in providing free and compulsory education to children. It has been interpreted rightfully in many cases over a decade. Implemented certain punishment, if anyone violates the norms established, through case laws and from the act itself.

As per the various judgment of the Supreme Court and with the help of the Government, the judiciary has taken several steps to eradicate illiteracy rates, eliminating many social evils, uplifting many groups and classes of people, and providing equal opportunities to educate people to enable them to participate in country’s development and learn a good way of living the life.

Right To Education

The right to Education is a right provided by our constitution to ensure that every child gets primary education. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 is legislation envisaged in Article 21-A of the Constitution of India which is read as “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all the children of the age of six to fourteen years in such a manner as the state may, by law, determine”[2].

It gave every child the right to have elementary education of good quality under the guidance of qualified teachers. This right gave every child an opportunity to attend school in neighbourhood. Here the term “free education” means that the child whose parents do not have enough resources to provide their child primary education will be given free education in neighbor school or as per the capacity of the state that child is residing in. This directly excludes the children whose parents have the capacity and resources to send their children to school.

The right of every child to have primary education is a human right and it is now given the status of a fundamental right. It is a fundamental right, but it is on up to each state how to give force to this fundamental right. This will also depend on the state’s capacity, power, resources and development.

Directive Principle of State Policy

Originally Right to Education was in Part IV of the constitution in Article 45 of the Directive Principle of State Policy (DPSP). It was in 1950 when this was put into the Constitution to provide quality education. But the government failed to keep this promise. Since DPSP are not enforceable by any court but the government has to keep in mind DPSP while making, enforcing and implanting any law.

No provision in the Constitution of India is prior to any other provision of the constitution. So, Article 45 which, was under DPSP (Part IV), was not enforced. Moreover, India’s education system was not adequate and compatible enough to provide education to every child in the country.

National Education Policy

1st National Policy on Education came in 1968 at the time of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1986, 2nd second National Policy on Education (NEP) was set up. Then two committees were made to review NPE.

The first one was: Ramamurti Committee in 1990 and the second report was: Janardhana Reddy Committee in 1992. These committees, to review the NPE, were made to implement NPE because NPE would have provided education to every child as human rights but also for the transformation of the country’s growth and development. Ramamurti Committee made a report which was tabled in the Parliament on 9th January 1991. The committee made the following recommendations:

  • Development of common school system
  • Removing disparities in education
  • Promotion of women’s education
  • Value education
  • Early childhood care and education
  • Operation black board
  • Right to education
  • Navodaya Vidyalayas
  • Work experience
  • Resources for education

Judicial Interpretation

Then in 1993, Supreme Court showed keen interest in implementing the right to education through the cases of Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka and Unni Krishna v. State of Andhra Pradesh.

In Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka[3], a petition was filed under article 32 challenging the validity of the “capitation fee” imposed by private medical colleges in Karnataka charging high tuition fees from seats who failed to get admission to “government seats”. In this case, Supreme Court relates the human right of education with Article 21 by saying that the right to education is a

fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and also that education is the right of everyone that flows from birth. Supreme Court also said in the same case that charging high fees is a violation under Article 14 for being unfair, unjust and arbitrary.

In the case of Unni Krishna, J.P. & Ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors.[4]

  1. the querying whether the “Right to Life” under Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees a fundamental right to education to citizens of India or not.
  2. role of economic resources in limiting the right to education
  3. the interplay between Part III i.e. Fundamental Rights and Part IV i.e. Directive Principles and State Policy(DPSP)
  4. whether the right to education includes adult professional education.

The court said that the right to free education is for children below the age of 14. States can provide higher education to such children under their own capacity for resource development and finances and also it can establish their own institutions while implementing Articles 41, 45 and 46 of the Constitution of India.

Thus Supreme Court established harmony between the Part III and Part IV of the Constitution of

India and creating a right to education as a basic fundamental right. Also in another case of Bandhuwa Mukti Morcha v. Union of India and Others[5] decided by Supreme Court, held that it is the solemn duty of states to provide education to children working in industries and factories and directed states to imply laws to provide education to children working in industries and factories.

Tapas Majumdar Committee

In 1999, the National Democratic Alliance government established a committee to look into the financial implication to operationalize the 83rd Amendment. This committee was Tapas Majumdar Committee. The 83rd Amendment was introduced by the United Front government in 1997 aiming to make the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education a Fundamental Right for children up to age 14.

The committee suggested that “the total additional requirements for UEE of Rs. 137,000 crores over the next ten years would be sufficient to provide a primary school with at least two teachers and two rooms within one kilometer of every habitation in India, at least three teachers and a room for the Headmaster in Upper 44 Primary schools, at least one Upper Primary school tor every two primary schools, and full coverage of disabled children in the school going age group. Provision for distribution of teaching-learning materials has been made for all children.

The coverage for scholarships and uniforms has been restricted to poor children and provision for 50 % of all children has been provided. Mid Day Meals/foodgrains distribution program has been limited to poor regions and here again a 50 % coverage has been suggested.”[6]

Eighty-Sixth Amendment Act, 2002

The act of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education of 2009 was given a spark only in 2002 with the introduction of the 86th (Eighty-Sixth) Amendment Act. This act aimed to make the Right to Education a fundamental right. However, this amendment specified the need for legislation that can be enforced to education compulsory for everyone. The following changes were made after 86th Amendment Act:

  1. Insertion of Article 21-A which read as : “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.”[7]
  2. Substitution of new article for Article 45: “Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years.- The State shall endeavor to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.”[8]
  3. Amended article 51A (Fundamental Duties) by inserting clause (k) which read as: “who is a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education to his child or, as the case may be, ward between the age of six and fourteen years.”[9]


According to my research, it seems likely to me that there was awareness about spreading the awareness of the importance of education across the country. But this sense of awareness was limited to a small number of people. There was little or no government intervention until 1990 when the implementation recommending committee came.

Before 1990, there was an Emergency during Indira Gandhi’s tenure, inter- states conflicts, boundary disputes with the Republic of China, the Tibet issue and the Cold War happening in the world. Also, India was one of the founding members of Non- The aligned Movement. In between all of this, India’s basic features were at stake and also there was a conflict between the Judiciary and the Legislation of the country.

In midst of all these issues, the development of education and others was not seen as necessary. After soon after the awakening, education was given a push. Today India has a 74% literacy rate according to the census of 2011.[10] Also, India became one of the 135 countries to make the Right to Education a Fundamental Right.[11]

India is still a developing country. It is 2nd (second) populated country. This is a negative factor as it leads to more illiteracy. India has the world’s largest illiterate population[12] according to UNESCO’s Education For All Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2014.

Right to Education Act 2009 came to effect on 1st April 2010. It provides that every ‘poor’ child shall get a compulsory education in neighbor school and that child is not allowed to pay his fees as he is already poor to afford an education at all.

Ever since this act came into effect, several private unaided schools filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the concerned act. The main aim of this petition was to challenge the 12(1) (c) of the act which read as:

Specified in sub clauses (iii) and (iv) of clause (n) of section 2 shall admit in class I, to the extent of at least twenty- five per cent of the strength of that class, children belonging to weaker section and disadvantaged group in the neighbourhood and provide free and compulsory education to its completion..”

Section 12(1) (c) is read with 2(n) (iv) and the petition challenging the validity of the section in the case of Society for Un-aided Private Schools of Rajasthan v. Union of India[13]


The right to education is a universal entitlement to education. The right to education was introduced in 2009 and enacted in 2010. It is provided by our constitution to ensure that every child gets primary education. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 is legislation envisaged in Article 21-A of the Constitution of India.

It is a universal right and is basically a primary right of a growing city. Earlier it was a Directive Principle of State Policy but given a shape of Fundamental Right that to be in article 21 of the constitution-making it important to live a life. It becomes as article 21- A went through a long journey. Hence, in the end, it received

its recognition. It provides that every ‘poor’ child shall get a compulsory education in neighbor school and that child is not allowed to pay his fees as he is already poor to afford an education at all.

The right to Education is one of the best legislation in our country. As per the layman’s perspective, the provision is either good or bad but the law holds the accountability, more. A famous philosopher has said that “law is the public conscience” – Thomas Hobbes. Law is made for the welfare of society and not for the purpose of making the welfare of oneself.

Providing seats to children in unaided and unaided minority schools is good enough to pursue the dream of development of society which will lead to the stem of equal participation of everyone and education is the root of all such prospective.

End Notes

[1] Emile Durkhem, Education et Sociologie p.262 (1992).

[2] Article 21-A of the Constitution of India, 1950

[3] AIR 1992 SC 1858

[4] AIR 1993 SC 2178

[5] 1997 (3) SCC 549


[7] Article 21A of Constitution of India, 1950

[8] Article 45 of Constitution of India, 1950

[9] Article 51A(k) of Constitution of India, 1950

[10] Status of Literacy

[11] India joins list of 135 countries in making education a right

[12] India’s illiterate population largest in the world, says UNESCO report

[13] (2012) 6 SCC 1

The article has been contributed by Aishwarya Gautam.

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