Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Right to Education Act and the Disabled

The Right to Education Act is by any account a landmark legislation (take just one: cost, which is around 15 billion dollars a year). Details of the legislation and amendments are available on the PRS site here.

I did an evolving series, last week, on one controversy surrounding the Bill's passage -- whether it is fair to disabled children. In chronology, the articles are here, here and here.

The question which I am a little unsure about is this legal point. The Act defines "disadvantaged" children as belonging to SC/ST/OBC... or suffering any other kind of disadvantage. The word "disability", mentioned in the draft, is not there in the Act that was passed. The effect of this is that disabled children do not explicitly get to avail a 25 per cent quota in private schools. Mr. Sibal subsequently (and after the PM spoke to him) made a statement in the Lok Sabha before the Bill was voted on, saying that disabled children were included in the definition of disadvantage. How binding is this? Mr. Sibal says that the onus is on the state governments to define "disadvantage". Is this accurate?

Relevant Links:

*Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2009 - Synopsis of Lok Sabha debate (pp.18-82) Kapil Sibal's reply: pp.79-82.
*Text of Kapil Sibal's reply to the debate: [from p.247] [His remarks on the definition of disadvantaged group can be found on p.252-253]
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