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Supreme Court reserves verdict on plea seeking free education to every child with special needs, disabled children

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on a petition seeking directions to ensure free and compulsory education to each and every Child With Special Need (CWSN)/Disabled Children by initiating the process of appointment of Special Teachers as per the Teacher Pupil ratio, which is 1:5. 

A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar asked Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Union of India and Advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for petitioner Rajneesh Kumar Pandey, to look for solutions. The Court observed that since there are not enough resources, efforts need to be made in training the teachers also, so that the special children are imparted with good quality education.

The Court pointed out to Shoeb Alam that Schemes such as Samagra Scheme, Deen Dayal Rehabilitation Scheme and Sarva Shiksha Scheme which is already functioning and you urge to scrap the schemes raising the issue that it is contrary to law.

Justice Khanwilkar said that there are no remedial measures as of now in regard to providing basic education to special children, who need to be trained. “The scheme is solution to today’s problem,” he said.

ASG Madhavi Divan for Union of India submitted that there are two types of school, one which falls under the Ministry of Education and another which falls under the Department of Ministry of Social Justice. As per Section 31 of the Right to Education Act, 2009, every child with benchmark disability between the age of 6-18 years shall have the right to free education in a neighbourhood school, or in a special school, of his choice.

Divan also submitted before the bench that Samagra Siksha Scheme provides for special children to enter into the mainstream and for that, reservation in jobs provided under the Right of Persons with Disability Act, 2016, around 4000 posts have been created by the Government for the disabled. The Ministry of Education has not prescribed special teachers for children of special needs.

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Justice Khanwilkar said,

“You need to provide infrastructure, basic education for special children. That is mandate. Ratio of teachers-Pupil has to evolved by you.”

To which, ASG Madhavi submitted that ratio has already been set by the government as per the Deen Dayal Rehabilitation Scheme. Under the said RTE Act, 2009, there is no ratio mentioned.

The bench was of the view that the norms are there with respect to teacher-pupil ratio. Such Special Schools come under the Deen Dayal Rehabilitation Scheme.

Mentioning the distinct categories in disabled set out by the Union of India before the Bench, the ASG said there are schools for intellectually disabled students, for visual impaired, and also for hearing disabled students. The ratio 1:8 is for mentally-challenged students, she added.

The Bench asked the UOI whether they had multiple disabilities also and is there any different training for visually-impaired and hearing disabled students. To which, the UOI replied in affirmative. “We do have multiple disabilities, but the schedule does not talk about special educators,” it said.

Rishi Malhotra, Amicus Curiae made submission before the court that Section 2 (ee) of RTI Act, 2009 includes child with disability and he questioned the contentions of UOI that whether the act and scheme is inclusive of each other.

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The Bench said the Disability Act, 2016 will not apply to general school, but applies to special schools, RTE 2009 will apply to general schools.

The Bench submitted to UOI, “The correct expression would be ‘Locomotor Disability’.

Rishi submitted that in regard to 1: 8 ratio policy, the state has to maintain the sanctioned strength of teachers.

The Bench said, “For the time being, we are focusing on policy issues.”

ASG Madhavi read out the definition of Physical Disability defined under Section(zc) 2 of the Schedule of Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 which states: “Physical disability.— A. Locomotor disability (a person’s inability to execute distinctive activities associated with movement of self and objects resulting from affliction of musculoskeletal or nervous system or both.”

Advocate Alam made submissions at length by stating that the ratio of pupil–teacher is within domain of central govt.  it cannot be delegated and reads out the Section 25 of RTE Act, 2009 r/w sec 20 RTE Act, 2009. Schedule contains norms and standard of education. It is duty upon central government to issue ratio as per section 25 RTE act, 2009. It is unhealthy practice to hire teachers on contract basis. 

Bench to Shoeb Alam  -“Even if there is no ratio, Section 25(2) of RTE Act 2009 will apply.

Shoeb Alam explained the Scope of Teachers and Samgara Shiksha Abhiyan Scheme brought in 2018.

Shoeb alam, for Petitioner submitted that there are no sanctioned posts for special educators in U.P.

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The Centre in its affidavit left for the states to decide the ratio of pupil – teacher. The Centre has submitted that under the rebooted “Samgra Siksha Scheme” majority of 22.5 lakh children with special need CSWN or differently abled Children would be admitted to regular school where teachers would get trained to cater their needs while ensuring their right to education. 

In this writ petition, the petitioners, apart from other reliefs, have prayed for the following reliefs:- “(a) Issue a writ, order or direction in the  nature of madamus, commanding the respondents to ensure the free and compulsory education to each and every CWSN (Child with Special Need)/Disabled  Children as per the Rules, Regulation and Schemes stated above by initiating the process of appointment of Special Teachers as per the Teacher-Pupil ratio i.e. 1:5; and 2 (b) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus, commanding the respondents to reserve and create, at least two posts or minimum number of posts in each and every schools of the Country/State, as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit in the interest of complete justice for CWSN (Child with Special Need/Disabled Children.

The petitioners prayed in the writ Petition citing the obligation of the schools, including of the concerned State Government to ensure appointment of duly qualified special teachers to impart quality training to the child with disability in the ratio enunciated in the central enactments as also the schemes propounded by the Central Government from time to time and service conditions of such teachers. The incidental issue that needs to be examined is whether the central scheme(s) relied upon by the State can be taken forward if the same is not in consonance with the subsequent enactments in the form of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016 and the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992.

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