S.18 and s.19 of ‘Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009’ (RTE Act 2009) mandate recognition for private schools expressly and prescribe heavy penalties and closure for non-compliance. These recognition norms are listed in the Schedule to the RTE Act 2009 and are mainly infrastructure norms including boundary wall, toilets, pupil-teacher ratio, library, barrier-free access and all weather building. There is no mention of student learning outcomes in the Schedule. Thus, a school that does not comply with pupil-teacher ratio may shut down despite having good learning outcomes. Although according to a document entitled ‘Clarification on provisions’ by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), S.19 is also applicable to public schools, in practise, most State Rules are enforced againstprivate schools alone.
In this background, iJustice filed a writ petition, titled iJustice v State of Punjab (CWP 7770 of 2014)before the Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh, challenging the discriminatory enforcement of norms qua private schools only. The petition was erroneously dismissed on the ground that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has upheld the vires of Sections .18-19 of RTE Act.