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Rights of school owners, poor kids can co-exist: Apex court

Wednesday March 16, 2011 08:40:26 AM, IANS

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday said that the right to run an educational institution could not come into conflict with right to education of a child from an underprivileged section of society.

"How do you balance the conflict of rights between the right to run an institution and the right of the child to education?" asked the apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar.

The court asked the petitioner unaided private schools to look at the issue from a positive angle of the empowerment of the children belonging to the weaker sections of society.

The judges said that this positive approach is akin to the one adopted in the course of the empowerment of the women.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for the unaided schools, said that their right to run educational institution was being invaded.

The court asked him if a hospital could refuse to leave one or two beds for AIDS patients needing second line of treatment and that too when the state was bearing the expenses.

The court said that the right to run the hospital has to be balanced with the right to give second line of treatment to AIDS patients so that they can live.

Dave said this amounted to re-writing the entire jurisprudence. When Dave said, "We are writing entire jurisprudence afresh including the constitution", the court said that the question is how you look at the things.

The court said that it could not strike down the right to education law merely because it provided 25 percent reservation for poor students.

When Dave said this reservation could be 50 percent or 75 percent in the future, the court said that it could not be asked to strike down a law merely in anticipation of things to come.

The court said that if it was found that reservation was getting unreasonable then it would step in. The court said that it had already capped reservation at 50 percent.

The court asked the petitioner to argue if such a law could be described as unreasonable.

"Can such a law be described as unreasonable restriction (on right to run an institution) merely because the state is asking for a support because it does not have adequate infrastructure?" the court asked.

The judges said that "on that point we can't strike down a law if we start looking into the wisdom of the legislature and the quality of education (in government institutions)".

The court quoted Albert Einstein saying that there was nothing absolute. Everything was relative. The court said that reasonable restriction are defined as those understood by an ordinary person.

There would be a big difference between the understanding of "reasonable restriction" between a person coming from elite class and one coming from remote area, the court said.





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