Right to free Education under Constitution of India

Free education to all: A reneged constitutional objective of India!

Article 45 of Constitution of India providing objective of free education to all:

Article 45 of the Constitution of India as originally enacted had a promise to provide free education to all children until they reach the age of 14 years. This objective remain unfulfilled with no steps taken to achieve this objective which was in the nature of a directive principle to the governance of State. In 2002 this directive was modified and the obligation was changed to provide free education to children upto the age of six years. Thus the executive fainaiguer was constitutionally accepted.

Recent amendments in Constitution of India to provide free education:

Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 reduced the age of children entited to free education to six years and inserted an article 21-A in the Constitution with the following objective:

“The Constitution of India in a Directive Principle contained in article 45, has ‘made a provision for free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of fourteen years within ten years of promulgation of the Constitution. We could not achieve this goal even after 50 years of adoption of this provision. The task of providing education to all children in this age group gained momentum after the National Policy of Education (NPE) was announced in 1986. The Government of India, in partnership with the State Governments, has made strenuous efforts to fulfil this mandate and, though significant improvements were seen in various educational indicators, the ultimate goal of providing universal and quality education still remains unfulfilled. In order to fulfil this goal, it is felt that an explicit provision should be made in the Part relating to Fundamental Rights of the Constitution.

Article 21A of the Constitution of India:

“21A. Right to education.: 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.”

Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, 2005 (with effect from 20.01.2006) was enacted to provide following object:

“Greater access to higher education including professional education to a larger number of students belonging to the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has been a matter of major concern. At present, the number of seats available in aided or State maintained institutions, particularly in respect of professional education, is limited in comparison to those in private unaided institutions.”

This Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act inserted clause (5) of Article 15 in the Constitution of India:

“Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes in so far as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of article 30.

Challenge to provision for free education to backward classes:

The Clause (5) in Article 15 of the Constitution, vested a power on the State, independent of and different from, the regulatory power under clause (6) of Article 19, and question raised was whether this new power vested in the State which enables the State to force the charitable element on a private educational institution destroys the right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. Thus Supreme Court of India was called upon to decide the following two substantial questions of law:

    1. Whether by inserting clause (5) in Article 15 of the Constitution by the Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment) Act, 2005, Parliament has altered the basic structure or framework of the Constitution of India
    2. Whether by inserting Article 21A of the Constitution by the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, Parliament has altered the basic structure or framework of the Constitution India.

Reasoning of Supreme Court while upholding the above Constitutional Amendments:

In India by Constitution (Eighty- Sixth Amendment) Act, a new power was made available to the State under Article 21A of the Constitution to make a law determining the manner in which it will provide free and compulsory education to the children of the age of six to fourteen years as this goal contemplated in the Directive Principles in Article 45 before this constitutional amendment could not be achieved for fifty years. This additional power vested by the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 in the State is independent and different from the power of the State under clause (6) of Article 19 of the Constitution and has affected the voluntariness of the right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. By exercising this additional power, the State can by law impose admissions on private unaided schools and so long as the law made by the State in exercise of this power under Article 21A of the Constitution is for the purpose of providing free and compulsory education to the children of the age of 6 to 14 years and so long as such law forces admission of children of poorer, weaker and backward sections of the society to a small percentage of the seats in private educational institutions to achieve the constitutional goals of equality of opportunity and social justice set out in the Preamble of the Constitution, such a law would not be destructive of the right of the private unaided educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

Under Section 12(1)(c) read with Section 2(n)(iv) of the Act, an unaided school not receiving any kind of aid or grants to meet its expenses from the appropriate Government or the local authority is required to 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 elementary education till its completion. We further find that under Section 12(2) of the 2009 Act such a school shall be reimbursed expenditure so incurred by it to the extent of per- child-expenditure incurred by the State, or the actual amount charged from the child, whichever is less, in such manner as may be prescribed. Thus, ultimately it is the State which is funding the expenses of free and compulsory education of the children belonging to weaker sections and several groups in the neighbourhood, which are admitted to a private unaided school. These provisions of the 2009 Act, in our view, are for the purpose of providing free and compulsory education to children between the age group of 6 to 14 years and are consistent with the right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution

The width and amplitude test:

A plain reading of clause (5) of Article 15 would show that the power of a State to make a law can only be exercised where it is necessary for advancement of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and not for any other purpose. Thus, if a law is made by the State only to appease a class of citizen which is not socially or educationally backward or which is not a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, such a law will be beyond the powers of the State under clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution. A plain reading of clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution will further show that such law has to be limited to making a special provision relating to admission to private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided, by the State. Hence, if the State makes a law which is not related to admission in educational institutions and relates to some other aspects affecting the autonomy and rights of private educational institutions as defined by this Court in T.M.A. Pai Foundation, such a law would not be within the power of the State under clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution. In other words, power in clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution is a guided power to be exercised for the limited purposes stated in the clause and as and when a law is made by the State in purported exercise of the power under clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution, the Court will have to examine and find out whether it is for the purposes of advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and whether the law is confined to admission of such socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes to private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided, and if the Court finds that the power has not been exercised for the purposes mentioned in clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution, the Court will have to declare the law as ultra vires Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. In our opinion, therefore, the width of the power vested on the State under clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution by the constitutional amendment is not such as to destroy the right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

A law made under clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution by the State on the ground that it treats private aided educational institutions and private unaided educational institutions alike is not immune from a challenge under Article 14 of the Constitution. Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution only states that nothing in Article 15 or Article 19(1)(g) will prevent the State to make a special provision, by law, for admission of socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State. Clause (5) of Article 15 of the Constitution does not say that such a law will not comply with the other requirements of equality as provided in Article 14 of the Constitution.

Exclusion of minority institutions from obligation to provide free education:

Minority educational institutions, by themselves, are a separate class and their rights are protected under Article 30 of the Constitution, and, therefore, the exclusion of minority educational institutions from Article 15(5) is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. By excluding the minority institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30 of the Constitution, the secular character of India is maintained and not destroyed.

[Source: Pramati Educational & Cultural Trust v. Union of India, (Supreme Court of India)]


Religious establishment sponsorship prohibition in America's Constitution.

Supreme Court of USA takes U turn on religious establishment prohibition!

Prohibition on State sponsoring any religious establishment:

First Amendment which is also called Article 1 of Bill of Rights section of Constitution of USA,  provides as under:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In 1962 Board of Education, New York, acting in its official capacity under state law, directed the School District’s principal to cause the following prayer to be said aloud by each class in the presence of a teacher at the beginning of each school day:

“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”

History of America’s separation of State and Religion: 

Supreme Court of USA struck down this directive with the following observation about origin of establishment clause in USA Constitution:

It is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America. The Book of Common Prayer, which was created under governmental direction and which was approved by Acts of Parliament in 1548 and 1549, [Footnote 5] set out in minute detail the accepted form and content of prayer and other religious ceremonies to be used in the established, tax supported Church of England. [Footnote 6] The controversies over the Book and what should be its content repeatedly threatened to disrupt the peace of that country as the accepted forms of prayer in the established church changed with the views of the particular ruler that happened to be in control at the time. [Footnote 7] Powerful groups representing some of the varying religious views of the people struggled among themselves to impress their particular views upon the Government and obtain amendments of the Book more suitable to their respective notions of how religious services should be conducted in order that the official religious establishment would advance their particular religious beliefs. [Footnote 8] Other groups, lacking the necessary political power to influence the Government on the matter, decided to leave England and its established church and seek freedom in America from England’s governmentally ordained and supported religion………..

By the time of the adoption of the Constitution, our history shows that there was a widespread awareness among many Americans of the dangers of a union of Church and State. These people knew, some of them from bitter personal experience, that one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious services. They knew the anguish, hardship and bitter strife that could come when zealous religious groups struggled with one another to obtain the Government’s stamp of approval from each King, Queen, or Protector that came to temporary power. The Constitution was intended to avert a part of this danger by leaving the government of this country in the hands of the people, rather than in the hands of any monarch. But this safeguard was not enough. Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say that the people’s religions must not be subjected to the pressures of government for change each time a new political administration is elected to office.  [Source Page 370 U. S. at 426-427, 430]

Striking down the directive for prayers as violative of establishment clause:

Under that Amendment’s prohibition against governmental establishment of religion, as reinforced by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, government in this country, be it state or federal, is without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer which is to be used as an official prayer in carrying on any program of governmentally sponsored religious activity. 

Dissenting judgement in Engel v. Vitale:

It may be seen that Justice Douglas and Justice Stewart delivered dissenting opinion in aforesaid case. For sake of brevity only few lines are extracted, in which reference has been made to ‘traditions’ without any attempt to explain the history which is quoted above:

I can not say that to authorize this prayer is to establish a religion in the strictly historic meaning………. …… We are religious people whose institutions pre-suppose a Supreme Being…………..The First Amendment leaves the Government in a position not of hostility to religion but of neutrality.

….Since the days of John Marshall our Crier has said, “God save the United States and the House of Honourable Court.” Both Senate and House of Representatives open their daily Sessions with prayer….

Turn around on establishment clause in  Marsh v. Chambers – 463 U.S. 783 (1983):

Nebraska Legislature had  tradition of holding prayer, similar to the traditions mentioned in the aforesaid dissenting opinions in Engle v. Vitale but with the exceptions that these prayers were conduction by local Chaplain who was also paid from public funds to the service. There can not be better example of State sponsoring a particular religion in preference to other religions but Supreme Court decided to look at the other way, with these observations:

The opening of sessions of legislative and other deliberative public bodies with prayer is deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country. From colonial times through the founding of the Republic and ever since, the practice of legislative prayer has coexisted with the principles of disestablishment and religious freedom. In the very courtrooms in which the United States District Judge and later three Circuit Judges heard and decided this case, the proceedings opened with an announcement that concluded, “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” The same invocation occurs at all sessions of this Court.

The Court did not refer to Engle v. Vitale in this case instead the reliance was made on Abington School District v. Schempp which was a case where teaching of bible was carried out with the consent of majority. Again in this case no reference was made to historical reasons extracted first above. There is no reference to the fact that Constitutional interpretation is not an interpretation of majority but is to protect the minority. The trend however continued this year in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway.


Preference to christian clergy in 1999 not hit by establishment clause:

Greece, a town with a population of 94,000, is in upstate New York. For some years, it began its monthly town board meetings with a moment of silence. In 1999, the newly elected town supervisor, John Auberger, decided to replicate the prayer practice he had found meaningful while serving in the county legislature. Following the roll call and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, Auberger would invite a local clergyman to the front of the room to deliver an invocation. After the prayer, Auberger would thank the minister for serving as the board’s “chaplain for the month” and present him with a commemorative plaque. The prayer was intended to place town board members in a solemn and deliberative frame of mind, invoke divine guidance in town affairs, and follow a tradition practiced by Congress and dozens of state legislatures.

While the prayer program may be open to all creeds, nearly all local congregations are Christian. Citizens alleged violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause by preferring Christians over other prayer givers and by sponsoring sectarian prayers and sought to limit the town to “inclusive and ecumenical” prayers that referred only to a “generic God.” 

Now the Supreme Court has expanded the interpretation of religious establishment clause:

Yet Marsh must not be understood as permitting a practice that would amount to a constitutional violation if not for its historical foundation. The case teaches instead that the Establishment Clause must be interpreted “by reference to historical practices and understandings.” County of Allegheny, 492 U. S., at 670 (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part). That the First Congress provided for the appointment of chaplains only days after approving language for the First Amendment demonstrates that the Framers considered legislative prayer a benign acknowledgment of religion’s role in society. D. Currie, The Constitution in Congress: The Federalist Period 1789–1801, pp. 12–13 (1997). In the 1850’s, the judiciary committees in both the House and Senate reevaluated the practice of official chaplaincies after receiving petitions to abolish the office. The committees concluded that the office posed no threat of an establishment because lawmakers were not compelled to attend the daily prayer, S. Rep. No. 376, 32d Cong., 2d Sess., 2 (1853); no faith was excluded by law, nor any favored, id., at 3; and the cost of the chaplain’s salary imposed a vanishingly small burden on taxpayers, H. Rep. No. 124, 33d Cong., 1st Sess., 6 (1854). Marsh stands for the proposition that it is not necessary to define the precise boundary of the Establishment Clause where history shows that the specific practice is permitted. Any test the Court adopts must acknowledge a practice that was accepted by the Framers and has withstood the critical scrutiny of time and political change. County of Allegheny, supra, at 670 (opinion of Kennedy, J.); see also School Dist. of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U. S. 203, 294 (1963) (Brennan, J., concurring) (“[T]he line we must draw between the permissible and the impermissible is one which accords with history and faithfully reflects the understanding of the Founding Fathers”). A test that would sweep away what has so long been settled would create new controversy and begin anew the very divisions along religious lines that the Establishment Clause seeks to prevent. See Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U. S. 677 –704 (2005) (Breyer, J., concurring in judgment). [Source: Town of Greece v. Galloway, (Supreme Court of USA)]

The reason that this judgement is criticised as a repeal of First Amendment is that it completely ignores the history which led to founding of America and incorporation of First Amendment. Instead the judges have preferred their personal version of separation of State and Religion. In fact they had no courage to address the following rationale of Madison, the author of First Amendment:

To those who may subscribe to the view that, because the Regents’ official prayer is so brief and general there can be no danger to religious freedom in its governmental establishment, however, it may be appropriate to say in the words of James Madison, the author of the First Amendment:

“[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. . . . Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever? [Source: 370 U. S. at 436]

The judgement of US Supreme Court on establishment clause about secularism would however be carol for the ears of BJP and it’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Mr. Nrendra Modi as their interpretation of secularism is exactly the same as of US Supreme Court Today.

Negotiable instruments: Dishonour of cheque trial directions by Supreme Court

Dishonour of Cheques: directions for expeditious trial of cases.

Delay in cases for dishonour of cheques:

Background for direction:
An Association 174 banks/financial institutions as its members, which functions as think tank for banks in the matters of concern for the whole banking industry, raised issue of considerable national importance owing to the reason that in the era of globalization and rapid  technological developments, financial trust and commercial interest have to be restored. According to them the banking industry has been put to a considerable disadvantage due to the  delay in disposing of the cases relating to Negotiable Instruments Act. The Petitioner banks being custodian of public funds find it difficult to expeditiously recover huge amount of public fund which are blocked in cases pending under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881. Petitioners submitted that, in spite of the fact, Chapter XIV has been introduced in the Negotiable Instruments Act by Section 4 of the Banking, Public Financial Institutions and Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act, 1988, to enhance the acceptability of cheques in settlement of liability by making the drawer liable for penalties 2014 in case of bouncing of cheques due to insufficiency of funds, the desired object of the Amendment Act has not been achieved.
Cheque, though acknowledged as a bill of exchange under the Negotiable Instruments Act and readily
accepted in lieu of payment of money and is negotiable, the fact remains that the cheque as a negotiable
instrument started losing its credibility by not being honoured on presentation.

Directions by Supreme Court about trial:

(1) Metropolitan Magistrate/Judicial Magistrate (MM/JM), on the day when the complaint under Section 138 of the Act is presented, shall scrutinize the complaint and, if the complaint is accompanied by the affidavit, and the affidavit and the documents, if any, are found to be in order, take cognizance and direct issuance of summons.

(2) MM/JM should adopt a pragmatic and realistic approach while issuing summons. Summons must be properly addressed and sent by post as well as by e-mail address got from the complainant. Court, in appropriate cases, may take the assistance of the police or the nearby Court to serve notice to the accused. For notice of appearance, a short date be fixed. If the summons is received back un-served, immediate follow up action be taken.

(3) Court may indicate in the summon that if the accused makes an application for compounding of offences at the first hearing of the case and, if such an application is made, Court may pass appropriate orders at the earliest.

(4) Court should direct the accused, when he appears to furnish a bail bond, to ensure his appearance during trial and ask him to take notice under Section 251Cr.P.C. to enable him to enter his plea of defence and fix the case for defence evidence, unless an application is made by the accused under Section 145(2) for re- calling a witness for cross-examination.

(5) The Court concerned must ensure that examination-in-chief, cross- examination and re-examination of the complainant must be conducted within three months of assigning the case. The Court has option of accepting affidavits of the witnesses, instead of examining them in Court. Witnesses to the complaint and accused must be available for
cross-examination as and when there is direction to this effect by the Court.

[Source: Indian Bank Association vs. Union of India (Supreme Court of India)]


Grant of maintenance to Muslim woman

Right of Muslim woman to receive maintenance aka support from husband:

Right of maintenance under Indian Laws:

Petition under Section 125 CrPC would be maintainable before the Family Court as long as the appellant does not remarry. The amount of maintenance to be awarded under Section 125 CrPC cannot be restricted for the iddat period only.

Though the aforesaid decision was rendered interpreting Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984, yet the principle stated therein would be applicable, for the same is in consonance with the principle stated by the Constitution Bench in Khatoon Nisa

[Source: Shabana Bano v. Imran Khan, (2010) 1 SCC 666.]

At the time of divorce the Muslim husband is required to contemplate the future needs and make preparatory arrangements in advance for meeting those needs. Reasonable and fair provision may include provision for her residence, her food, her clothes, and other articles.

The expression “within” should be read as “during” or “for” and this cannot be done because words cannot be construed contrary to their meaning as the word “within” would mean “on or before”, “not beyond” and, therefore, it was held that the Act would mean that on or before the expiration of the iddat period, the husband is bound to make and pay maintenance to the wife and if he fails to do so then the wife is entitled to recover it by filing an application before the Magistrate as provided in Section 3(3) but nowhere has Parliament provided that reasonable and fair provision and maintenance is limited only for the iddat period and not beyond it. It would extend to the whole life of the divorced wife unless she gets married for a second time.”

The emphasis of this section is not on the nature or duration of any such “provision” or “maintenance”, but on the time by which an arrangement for payment of provision and maintenance should be concluded, namely, “within the iddat period”, and if the provisions are so read, the Act would exclude from liability for post-iddat period maintenance to a man who has already discharged his obligations of both “reasonable and fair provision” and “maintenance” by paying these amounts in a lump sum to his wife, in addition to having paid his wife’s mahr and restored her dowry as per Sections 3(1)(c) and 3(1)(d) of the Act.

[Source: Danial Latifi v. Union of India, (2001) 7 SCC 740 (Supreme Court of India)]

 A Muslim husband is liable to make reasonable and fair provision for the future of the divorced wife which obviously includes her maintenance as well and such a reasonable and fair provision extending beyond the iddat period must be made by the husband within the iddat period in terms of Section 3 of the Act; that liability of a Muslim husband to his divorced wife arising under Section 3 of the Act to pay maintenance is not confined to the iddat period; and that a divorced Muslim woman who has not remarried and who is not able to maintain herself after the iddat period can proceed as provided under Section 4 of the Act against her relatives who are liable to maintain her in proportion to the properties which they inherit on her death according to Muslim law from such divorced woman including her children and parents and if any of the relatives being unable to pay maintenance, the Magistrate may direct the State Wakf Board established under the Act to pay such maintenance.

The validity of the provisions of the Act was for consideration before the constitution bench in the case of Danial Latifi and Anr. v. Union of India. In the said case by reading down the provisions of the Act, the validity of the Act has been upheld and it has been observed that under the Act itself when parties agree, the provisions of Section 125 Cr.P.C. could be invoked as contained in Section 5 of the Act and even otherwise, the magistrate under the Act has the power to grant maintenance in favour of a divorced woman, and the parameters and considerations are the same as those in Section 125 Cr.P.C..

It is undoubtedly true that in the case in hand, Section 5 of the Act has not been invoked. Necessarily, therefore, the magistrate has exercised his jurisdiction under Section 125 Cr.P.C. But, since the magistrate retains the power of granting maintenance in view of the constitution bench decision in Danial Latifi’s case (supra) under the Act and since the parameters for exercise of that power are the same as those contained in Section 125 Cr.P.C., we see no ground to interfere with the orders of the magistrate granting maintenance in favour of a divorced Muslim woman.”

 When the marriage breaks up, a woman suffers from emotional fractures, fragmentation of sentiments, loss of economic and social security and, in certain cases, inadequate requisites for survival. A marriage is fundamentally a unique bond between two parties. When it perishes like a mushroom, the dignity of the female fame gets corroded. It is the law’s duty to recompense, and the primary obligation is that of the husband. Needless to emphasise, the entitlement and the necessitous provisions have to be made in accordance with the parameters of law.

[Source: Shamim Bano vs. Asraf Khan, April 16, 2014, Supreme Court of India]

Related post:
An eBook about Law of Maintenance.