Orissa High Court Dismisses Notification Directing Merger of Schools on Grounds of Less Enrolment of Students
4th May 2021, the Orissa High Court, issued a common order while hearing over 170 writ petitions in the School Managing Committee of Amaramunda Govt. Primary School, Amaramunda vs State of Odisha & Others – CWP no. 27401 of 2020 – and 6 other cases set aside a notification dated 11th March 2020 directing consolidation/ merger of school having lower roll strength (Satellite School) with the school having higher roll strength (Lead School) issued by the School and Mass Education Department, Odisha Government.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice Dr. B R Sarangi observed:
“Instead of finding the reasons for decreasing roll strength merger of school will not serve the purpose. It is just like without finding the cause of disease treatment has been started.”
11th March 2020 the School & Mass Education Department, Odisha Government issued a notification in pursuance of the Department’s policy of rationalization and consolidation of schools. It set out the consolidation of various types of schools including high schools with primary and upper primary schools. It also expressly laid down that a primary school having an enrolment of less than 40 in respect of non-scheduled area and less than 25 in respect of scheduled area can be consolidated with a lead school while an upper primary school having enrolment less than 50 in respect of non-scheduled area and less than 40 in respect of scheduled area can be consolidated with a lead school.
Management of schools, under Article 226 and Article 227 of the Constitution, filed writ petitions before the Orissa High Court, seeking to quash the impugned notification.
Examining the notification, the Court expressed that the impugned notification was contrary to Article 21A of the Constitution of India that entitles, every child between the age of 6-14, the fundamental right to free and compulsory education.
The Court also took notice of the fact that no minimum strength for primary school, roll strength of the upper primary school, merger/consolidation of primary/upper primary schools with high schools was prescribed under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009. Clearly, the notification fixing the minimum roll strength under the Odisha Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010, was contrary to the statute.
The Court held:
“…when the very purport of the Act, 2009 and Rules, 2010 is to provide at least one school within a walking distance of one km. of the neighbourhood, in that case, the State Government cannot and could not take steps for abolition of schools which are already there and catering to the needs of the local people.”
In view of the observations, the Orissa High Court allowed the writ petitions, set aside the impugned notification while stating: “cannot sustain in the eye of law” and directed the parties to “restore back the position of the schools in question, as before, and provide necessary infrastructure for smooth running of the same”.
Ankitha Subramanya | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL