‘Unaided minority schools not obliged to reserve seats for poor’

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday held that concessions in water and property taxes — barring monetary aspects like salary — received by unaided minority schools, will not amount to aid under the Right To Education (RTE) Act. The court ruled that such schools are not under the obligation of 25 per cent reservation of seats for students from the economically weaker sections.

The ruling, which could set a precedent, was pronounced by a division bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice Revati-Mohite Dere. The order was in relation to petitions filed by Pune-based Bishop Education Society and other schools.

On March 22, the Pune Zilla Parishad education officer stayed the admission process of the society's three schools relying upon the provisions of the RTE Act. The education officer wanted the schools to reserve 25 per cent seats for the children belonging to the weaker section and disadvantaged groups.

Additional government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani had argued that the applicability of the reservation policy in admission under the Act would have to be seen in a broader view. He contended that if a school is provided with a playground or other support, then the same amounts to aid.

Appearing for the education officer, advocate Sanjeev Rairkar had submitted that one of the schools run by the society stood on land granted by the Centre at concessional rate. The other two schools received aid in the form of property tax concessions, he said. Therefore, reservation under the Act would apply, he added. The state government and other respondents had contended that another petitioner — St Mary's School Society — had got computers from the state government and that amounted to aid.

The court, however, observed that monetary aspects like salaries can be considered as aid under the Act but stationery like books and computers cannot be termed as aid.

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