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Himachal Pradesh High Court while answering a question, “Whether children through their parents have unfettered right to choose a school, in which they wish to study?” has held that free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school as guaranteed under the RTE Act does not mean that a child has unfettered right to admission in the school of one’s choice.

In this case, the petitioner father had approached Respondent school for admitting his younger child in class 3, but was denied the admission on the ground that the child did not make a grade and therefore, could not be selected. It was claimed that Respondent school is hardly at a distance of 75 meters from his residence and as per the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, his child has an unfettered right to be admitted in the school and the respondents have no discretion whatsoever to deny him admission.

The respondent-School contested the Petition and stated that it is a non-aided school and that the admissions made by it are strictly in conformity with the Act. It is further averred that the son of the petitioner had competed with the other children who were desirous of being admitted in class 3, but failed to make a grade and therefore, could not granted admission.

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The High Court of Himachal Pradesh considered the argument of the parties and disposed off the Writ Petition by observing that Section 3(i) of the Act provides that every child of the age of six to fourteen years shall have right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school till completion of elementary education ensuring that a school is available in the neighborhood and free and compulsory education in neighborhood school is available to every child of the age group to which statute applies, but then this provision, in no manner gives a right to the child or parents to pick and choose a particular school, which falls under Section 12 of the Act, except to the extent of the provisions contained in this Section read with Section 2(n) of the Act.

The Court was also of the view that any direction to admit the student belonging to non-minority, then the same would lead to an invasion of its right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution to the Schools.

The High Court was clear to observe that school’s responsibility for free and compulsory education is governed by Section 12 of the Act and sub-section 1(c) thereof provides the extent to which provisions have to be made in favour of the weaker section, disadvantaged group etc., but right to free and compulsory education in a neighborhood school does not include the right to insist on any school of choice under the Act. The High Court accordingly dismissed the Petition. 

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