Special Reports

Right to Education Act to safeguard minorities

New Delhi: Kapil Sibal, union minister for human resources development, had to face strong opposition on certain provisions of the compulsory Right to Education Act from minority institutions and Muslim leadership. Concerns were voiced about a few sections of the Act. He had assured at that time that he would instruct his ministry to draw specific guidelines to ensure that minority institutions be kept out of the ambit of certain provisions and safeguard the rights enshrined in Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian constitution.

With the recent circular dated 23 November 2010 Kapil Sibal has demonstrated the sincerity of his assurance. This circular states that under section 35 (1) with regard to minority institutions on rights of children to free and compulsory education act the ministry had sought the views and objections of minority organisations under provisions of Articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution. The ministry also held discussions on these issues and had deliberations to look into the matter so as to invite opinions from various groups After consultations, the following instructions are being issued about section 35 (1) of the RTE Act 2009.

Under Articles 29 and 30 Indian constitution guarantee autonomy to madaris and vedic pathshalas which are engaged in religious and linguistic activities; the RTE, in no way would interfere with their rights so guaranteed therein. The schools, under section 2 (n), are informed that schools run by minority organisations are covered under 2 (n) and they have been included under the RTE Act 2009. The state and local administrations have the responsibility to ensure the constitutional rights of minority institutions, and the provisions of RTE are so enforced that the guarantee provided in Art 29 and 30 about their autonomy is in no way adversely affected. This circular was issued by the competent authority on 23 November 2010 vide order no. 1-15/2010-EE-4. It may be recalled that at the time of introduction of compulsory right to education bill management committees of several madaris and ulama had raised strong objections on various sections of the act which were against the constitutional guarantee of autonomy under Art 29 and 30 which would have adversely affected these institutions.