India: UN Expert hails decision by Supreme Court upholding the right to education for all

GENEVA (13 April 2012) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, on Friday hailed the decision by the Indian Supreme Court to uphold the constitutional validity of the provisions in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The Act mandates that 25 per cent of places in both private and public schools in the country should be reserved for socially and economically disadvantaged groups.

The court decision, handed down yesterday, follows petitions by some private providers of education who complained that the law violated their autonomy. The court ruled that the Act applies uniformly to government and unaided private schools across the country except for unaided private minority schools.

“Exclusion and poverty remain the most important obstacles to the realization of the right to education in all regions of the world,” Mr. Singh said. “India’s Supreme Court decision establishing that both public and private education institutions should respond to the needs of those who are economically deprived is an important step towards ensure better education opportunities for all, in line with India’s constitutional and international obligations. This judgment should inspire other countries.”

“Human rights law is clear - no one should be deprived of basic education because it is unaffordable,” Mr. Singh added.

The UN Special Rapporteur emphasized that the adoption of strong national laws regulating both private and public education is crucial to ensuring better opportunities for marginalized groups and preserving education as a public good. “With the rapid expansion of private education, strong laws are needed to ensure that the private sector complies with national education norms and human rights principles relating to the right to education.”

ENDS

Kishore Singh is the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010. He is an Indian international law expert, who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national entities on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked for its better understanding as an internationally recognized right.

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