More than half of the Right to Education (RTE) Act quota seats for children belonging to the economically weaker section are lying vacant, the Bombay high court was told on Friday.
In an affidavit filed in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL), the school education department said across Maharashtra, 95,901 seats are available for children from the economically weaker section under the 25% RTE quota, and so far only 41,913 students have been admitted to 5,601 schools across the state. This means around 53,988 seats are still vacant.
The statistics given in the affidavit also reflect the sorry state of affairs in Mumbai. In the state’s capital, barely one-third of the seats available under the quota for poor children are filled so far. According to the affidavit, 8,223 seats are available in the city, and till September 4 only 2,582 seats had been filled.
The division bench of justice Anoop Mohta and justice FM Reis has now sought to know from the state government what it proposes to do with the vacant seats. Even though additional government pleader Geeta Shastri submitted that under provisions of the RTE Act, the state authorities are bound to keep the seats vacant, the judges felt that other students should be given these unfilled seats.
“The academic session started long ago and you have already tried your best to fill the RTE quota seats, but still if some seats are lying vacant, why waste them?” the judges said. “The school infrastructure is already there and if no poor students are coming forward, why deprive other children from the locality from getting admission to these unfilled seats?” the judges sought to know from Shastri.
Shastri pointed out that the law requires the authorities to continue to fill up the quota seats throughout the year and therefore the unfilled seats would be required to be kept vacant. The judges, however, felt the state government should revisit the stand and instead of wasting the seats, should allow other students to get the vacant quota seats.
About the PIL
The court was hearing public interest litigation filed by Anudanit Shiksha Bachao Samiti seeking proper implementation of provisions of the RTE Act in the state.
In the PIL filed through advocate Vaibhav Sugdare, the petitioner body has primarily pointed out that though the legislation mandates all schools to keep aside 25 % seats for poor children, the provision was not being properly implemented.