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The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on a batch of petitions by private schools challenging the right to education law that mandates them to earmark 25 percent seats for poor students.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar reserved the verdict after the conclusion of the hearing in which un-aided private schools contended that reservation of 25 percent seats for poor children violated the educational institutions’ right to operate without state interference.

During the hearing, spread over many weeks, the court told the petitioners that the provision for earmarking 25 percent seats for poor children should not be viewed as some kind of reservation but as an attempt to impart education to all.

The private schools contended that compulsory enrolment of 25 percent poor students would cripple them financially.

The central government countered saying that private schools would be reimbursed money they would spend on the poor students.The apex court said that for such a public-private partnership (PPP) to succeed there had to be a viable formula.

The court also chided the government for allocating less money for the education sector as compared to other countries.

In one of the hearings, Chief Justice Kapadia said: “You (government) are spending so much. You must spend for strengthening these schools.”

He went on to say that in South Africa they spend 7 percent of the GDP on education, yet they were facing problems because of the high costs of education and they were opting for the PPP route.

The court had also expressed its reservation on the provision of the law that eliminates examination for students up to Class 8.

Chief Justice Kapadia said that one area that was bothering the court was the elimination of examination for students up to Class 8. There should be some system of assessment before a student was promoted to the next class.

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