Highlighting that access to education is now a fundamental right under Article 21A, the Supreme Court on Monday questioned the lack of specially trained teachers and separate schools for students with autism, deafness and blindness.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said that, under the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsary Education Act, 2009, states are obligated to provide education. The court said it is “impossible to think” that children suffering from disabilities or who are mentally ill can cope up with fellow students in mainstream schools.
“We are of the prima facie view that the children with special needs have to be imparted education not only by special teachers but there have to be special schools for them,” the bench said, giving the Uttar Pradesh government four weeks to file an affidavit which dictates when the state will meet its obligation. The matter will be heard further on November 27.
“When we say ‘disability’, we do not mean ‘disability’ as has been defined in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 includes certain physical disabilities which may not be a warrant for getting admission in special schools. The students who suffer from blindness, deafness and autism or such types of disorder may be required to have separate schools with distinctly trained teachers,” said the bench.
Appearing for the state, additional advocate general Aishwarya Bhati said that Uttar Pradesh is committed to impart special needs education and that the procedure to engage 12,000 teachers for this process has already commenced.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development noted the state government’s comment that Children With Special Needs (CWSN) were being taught in an integrated system to eliminate any sense of alienation and boost their confidence in a normal school environment.
About 17 teachers, who claim to have gone through training for CWSN children, have filed a petition contending that Right to Education can be a success if special educators are assigned to CWSN to prepare them to face the challenges of life.