The Bombay high court on Tuesday directed the state government to reimburse all costs incurred by schools in admitting students from the economically weaker sections (EWS) under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.
A division bench of justice Anoop Mohta and justice KR Shriram was hearing a petition filed by Uran Education Society, which runs an English medium school. The petition says that from 2013, schools have been made to provide education to underprivileged students in the pre-primary section, without being provided any reimbursement for the same. The petition also states the government has not made any payment to several schools, even after they filled forms to claim reimbursement.
At the previous hearing, the court had said it was the obligation of the state to reimburse the costs incurred by schools for admissions under the RTE Act, and had asked the Centre to send a representative.
On Tuesday, additional solicitor general Anil Singh, appearing for the Centre, said that the Centre had not directed the state to admit students to provide compulsory education, and therefore it is not its responsibility to share the financial burden of the state.
Attorney general Sunil Manohar, appearing for the state, said the RTE Act only states that the schools have to admit EWS students and they can recover fees from students. He said the Act says schools must just admit students, and not ask for reimbursements of the costs incurred to do so. He said there was a definite lacunae in the Act.
The court then asked why a section of people would be classified as EWS if they have to pay fees, and where students should go if they can’t pay the fees.
The court recorded that the government should make necessary arrangements for free education, that they cannot overlook education as it is the question of developing the future, and the state and Centre cannot shun their responsibility by saying they are not bound to reimburse schools.
The court further said the moment schools admit such students their entitlement for reimbursements should follow. The court cited the examples of the state governments of Karnataka, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, who reimburse schools who admit EWS students.