Article 21A – Right to education
The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.
Inserted by Constitution (Eighty Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002.
Article 21 A declares that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such a manner as the State may determine.
Thus, this provision makes only elementary education a Fundamental Right and not higher or professional education.
This provision was added by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002. This amendment is a major milestone in the country’s aim to achieve ‘Education for All’.
Even before this amendment, the Constitution contained a provision for free and compulsory education for children under Article 45 in Part IV. However, being a directive principle, it was not enforceable by the courts. Now, there is scope for judicial intervention in this regard.
This amendment changed the subject matter of Article 45 in directive principles. It now reads—‘The state shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years.’
It also added a new fundamental duty under Article 51A that reads —‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years’.
In 1993, the Supreme Court recognised a Fundamental Right to primary education in the right to life under Article 21. It held that every child or citizen of this country has a right to free education until he completes the age of 14 years. Thereafter, his right to education is subject to the limits of economic capacity and development of the state.
In pursuance of Article 21A, the Parliament enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
This Act seeks to provide that every child has a right to be provided full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
This legislation is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all.