Right to Education – Part and Parcel of dignified Life

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Right to education is a fundamental right under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India but earlier when it was not a right, the Apex Court time and again dealt with this issue and came up with adopting extremely expansive view. One such case that came up before the division bench was Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka [i].

Details of the case  :

Case Name : Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka

Date of Judgment  : 30th July 1992

Judges Name  : Hon’ble J. Kuldip Singh and Hon’ble J. R. M. Sahai

Case related to  : Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution and Right to Education

Jurisdiction :

The petitioner Mohini Jain, had directly approached the apex court by filing a writ petition under Article 32 of The Constitution of India for the violation of Article 14.

Facts of the Case :

Miss Mohini Jain, a medical student, had enrolled herself for the admission in Sri Siddhartha Medical College, Agalokote, Tumkur in the State of Karnataka. She was informed by the  management of the college to pay Rs 60,000 as tution fees for her first year of the MBBS program and to furnish bank guarantee in the respect of the remaining course years. She wasn’t in the position to afford such educational charges.

The State government of Karnataka enacted the Karnataka Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Capitation Fee) Act, 1984 with the sole objective of knocking out the exorbitant capitation fees charged by the educational institutions.  In lieu of Section 5(1) of this Act, the government issued a notification dated June 5, 1989, to regulate and fix the tuition fees charged by the private medical educational institutions. The tuition fees to be charged by the students admitted against Government quota was fixed as Rs. 2000, while the Karnataka students other than admitted against government quota were to pay Rs. 25000. But the students, outside the Karnataka, not admitted as against government quota have to pay Re 60000 as tuition fees.

Mohini, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, challenged this notification as violative of equality provision under Article 14 of the Constitution.

Issues before the Court :

  1. Whether ‘right to education’ can be considered as fundamental right  ?
  2. Whether the notification issued by the State government of Karnataka is violative of Article 14 or not  ?

Judgment  :

As in the respect of issue no. 1 , the apex court accepted that the Constitution doesn’t expressly  guarantees the fundamental right to education but reading cumulatively Article 21 along with The Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Part IV of The Constitution, namely Article 38,39(a) and mainly Article 41, the court held that “ it becomes clear that the framers of the Constitution made it obligatory for the State to provide education to it’s citizens.”

And considering right to education as a fundamental right , the court was of the view that “charging capitation fee is a patent denial of a citizen’s right to education under the Constitution.”

So, the court ruled that “right to education flows directly from the right to life. “

The division bench in respect to issue no. 2,was of the view that charging of capitation fee by the State organised educational institutions as “ wholly arbitrary and as such violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The counsel appearing on behalf of the medical college had argued that they didn’t receive any financial aid from the Government and so they must charge much higher fees from private students to make good the loss incurred on government students. According to him, this classification of students was valid and not violative of equality clause.

Rejecting his contention, the bench declared that charging fees on the class basis amounts to violation of Article 14 as a poor meritorious students is denied admission to these institutions merely because he has no money whereas rich can purchase education. “Such treatment is patently unreasonable, unfair and unjust. “ The court had already held that equality is directly opposed to arbitrariness.[ii]

The court treated exorbitant tuition fees as capitation fees and thus violative of people’s right to education.

Conclusion

As accurately stated, Article 21 enshrine the right to live with human dignity and this article derives its life breath mainly from The Directive Principles. Thus, this right must include among others, opportunities for children to develop in healthy manner, educational facilities, etc. [iii] Education promotes good and dignified life. The court in this case held that  state is under a constitutional mandate to provide educational institutions at all levels for the benefit of the citizens.

Charging exorbitant fees for admission into the educational institutions, whether capitation or tuition, is a direct way of depriving the students to education and hence, dignified life.

(Author: Muskan Krishnani, pursuing B.B.A,. LLB (Second Year) from Amity University, Chhattisgarh.)


[i] (1992) 3 SCC 666

[ii] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978) 1 SCC 248

[iii] Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1984) 3 SCC 161