Transformation of Education in India: A story from stifle to a liberated private higher education

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India’s Education approach differed mainly with the British approach. The first genuine alteration was made just one year after the Independence when the University Education Committee was set up under the leadership of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. The Committee in its report highlighted the liberalization of Education from governmental interference and promoted the concept of autonomy of Universities.

In the wake of New Education Policy of 1986, the need of private institutions was felt in accommodation of Comprehensive Higher Education, when the policy examined that the state funds were inadequate to promote higher education. But the objectives of state were continuously in conflict with the concept ‘private’ education i.e. autonomy. There was a need to strike a balance between the interests of private sector institutions and a need to secure good quality Education in India. This is where Supreme Court has played an important role by stepping up to produce landmark judgments to describe the rights of private institutions.

Mohini Singh v. State of Karnataka (1992) 3 SCC 666

There were two issues before the Court:-

Whether charging capitation fee the right; Whether charging capitation fee violated Article 14 of the Constitution
The Court held that ‘right to education’ is collateral to fundamental right enshrined in Part III of the Constitution and that every citizen has the right to education. The Supreme Court held that a ‘right’ to education ‘flowed from’ the enforceable right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution, since there could be no ‘dignified enjoyment of life’, or the realization of other rights, without adequate education.

The Court struck great deal of blow to private institutions while addressing to issue related to fixation of tuition fees. The Court held that if government seats are filled by charging Rs. 2,000, it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that all other institutions that are set up with government permission and have obtained recognition from the government, also charge the same amount as fees.

This judgment served as a death blow to private universities and the need was felt to consider the judgment involving Mohini Jain’s case as private sector argued that if principals involved in the case were followed, all private institutions would have to close down. A failing attempt was made in Unni krishnan K.P. v. State of Andhra Pradesh.

The Court while considering the issue in Mohini case diluted the right and would extend to children up to age of 14 years. The Court said that Article 45 of Part IV has to be read in harmonious construction with Article 21 of Part III of the Constitution as the right to life loses its importance without the right to education.

The Court imposed stringent regulations on the Private Institutions in its quest to balance the interests and prevent commercialization of education which resulted in filling of petitions challenging the fixation of fees by Ad hoc bodies. After struggling for almost a decade which substituted the nationalization of education in India to Court control of Education an 11 judge bench was formed to decide the questions involved in Unni Krishnan and its validity.

In TMA Pai Foundation  v. State of  Karnataka (2002)8 SCC 481) the main issue before the bench was:-

The validity of scheme framed in the Unni Krishnan and; The rights of minorities to establish private educational institutions and administer them. While answering the questions in affirmative the counsels asserted that establishment and setting of educational institution is well within one’s fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) and would be termed as an ‘occupation’ under 19(1)(g) which led to the conclusion that the scheme framed in Unni Krishnan was unconstitutional and illegal.

 The bench said that there should be autonomy of private institutions subject to the condition that a small number of students of weaker sections would have to be admitted against scholarships and freeships and that some seats should be reserved for students who have cleared the common entrance test of the state.

The attempt to give clarity and to iron out the creases was further made in the Islamic Academy v. State of Karnataka which gave certain guidelines:

Fee structure has to be fixed subject to a condition that there is no profiteering;
State can provide reservation in favor of economically and socially backward classes; Private institution has full autonomy over admissions so long as they are merit-based or based on a common entrance test.
Due to the formation of committee in the former case the and to clarify the ratio of reservation in these universities a final bench was constituted in PA Inmadar v. State of Maharashtra. It took almost a decade for the Courts to realize the policy of the government perceiving the need of private educational institutions. This judgment has settled all the issues encompassing private education and institutions in India.

Submitted by:- Vedant Agrawal
Student Reporter,INBA

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