The Supreme Court today sought the Gujarat government's response on an allegation that it was suppressing or manipulating data regarding the number of Class one seats on its primary education website, affecting the enrolment of students from the weaker sections. A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud issued notices to the Gujarat government and its Directorate of Primary Education on a petition seeking a direction for enrolment of 63,610 students from the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups at the school entry level of Class I within 30 days.
The matter is likely to come up for hearing next week. The court agreed to hear the matter after senior advocate Colin Gonsalves submitted that the issue was coming in way of the provisions of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
The plea, filed by Sandip Harshadray Munjyasara, through advocate Satya Mitra, has alleged that the state government was colluding with the schools to hide the data regarding the actual enrolment in violation of provisions of the Act.
It also sought a direction to the state to give access to the relevant servers/computer containing the data to the forensic sciences laboratory here "in order to retrieve the data being suppressed or manipulated."
The plea alleged that the modus operandi followed by the over 9,000 schools in Gujarat to avoid ensuring that 25 per cent of the strength of each class was of children belonging to the weaker sections was "to hide the strength of the class i.e. the total number of children in a particular class."
"If the total strength is understated, then the 25 per cent is also understated, and the schools are then able to violate the Act by admitting very few children belonging to the weaker sections and disadvantaged groups," the plea said.
It claimed that the websites maintained by the Gujarat government showed thousands of schools hiding the student strength at the entry-level Class I to "such an extent that it made a mockery of the Act."
The petitioner moved the Supreme Court against the April 20 order of Gujarat High Court refusing to pass any direction to the authorities on his petition. He sought a direction to the state government "to ensure that 63,610 students from weaker sections and disadvantaged groups be enrolled in Class I forthwith, and be allowed to fill up the online admission form for a period of 30 days."
The plea sought direction to the secretary of the state's department of education to disclose names and addresses of all schools in Gujarat with the sanctioned strength of Class I of each school and actual enrolment for the years 2014-15, 2015- 16, 2016-17 and 2017-18.
It said the enrolment list of general and weaker sections and disadvantaged group students enrolled school-wise for the specified years be also provided.
The petitioner claimed that his research has revealed that over 1,000 schools had shown "zero strength" in Class I and over 4,000 schools "less than 40 students" as the strength in the same class.
It was alleged that the Gujarat government after being exposed, had "immediately taken steps to change their website data" and started "eliminating the incriminating data", particularly in respect of schools showing very low student strength at the entry level.