Lessons From the Law
Human right dimension: Children’s right to education is not only a human right by itself, but is also instrumental for realising other human rights. Education opens up opportunities of access to good things of life. It brings awareness for development one’s own personality, for excellence of character, welfare of his or her family and for better human relationship. It enables and motivates better participation in social, political and cultural life of the community. It helps to overcome exploitations and traditional inequalities of caste, class and gender. Learning liberates from ignorance, superstition and prejudice that blind the vision of truth. It is a preparation for living in a better way in future with an ability participate successfully in the modern economy and society. It is a well- demonstrated fact that with universalisation of education, the community’s health standards, life expectancy and inclination for harmonious life get enhanced. In brief, education is a key to the civilizational standards, to the process of social transformation and strivings towards perfection. Value addition in human quality and lifestyle or vision takes place with early education.
Constitutional development: The founding fathers of Indian Constitution had the vision of time bound policy of free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 years’ (Article 45 as originally stood). This was introduced as a Directive Principle of State Policy. Although expected to be fundamental in the governance of the state, due to apathy and lack of adequate social universal primary education was destined to remain as an unfulfilled promise. Judicial activism in reading the Directives into fundamental Rights, especially right to life under Article 21 resulted in recognition of right to life as a component of right to dignified life in Mohini Jain and Unni Krishnan case. Education’s connections with protection of environment, eradication of untouchability, child labour and child prostitution and promotion of secularism have been figured in judicial decisions Right to conserve culture, language script
(Article 29), rights of linguistic and religious minorities to establish educational institutions of their choice (Article 30) and freedom of business and of religion have been the basis for establishing private educational institutions, which are to supplement state efforts in providing compulsory primary education In M.C. Mehta v. State of T.N. the duty of parents to ensure education of children after withdrawing them from hazardous employment was emphasised. While the adult members were entitled to job opportunities subject to state’s ability, they were to forfeit their right if they fail to send their children to school. The Court observed, “The employment given or payment made would cease to be operative if the child would not be sent by the parent or guardian for education.” While this speaks about the duty of parents, the duty of employers engaging children in non- hazardous works to enable the education of children by adjusting the working hours and to undertake the responsibility of education is also recognised by the Court. In Bandhua Mukti Morche v. Unions of India the court reiterated the importance of compulsory primary education vis-à-vis eradication of child labour.
Author is Senior lecturer at KCEF Law College Pulwama.