Sending children under age of 3 years to preschool is illegal act: HC
Parents who force their children under the age of three to attend preschool are committing an "illegal act," according to the Gujarat High Court while dismissing a batch of petitions challenging the state government's decision to set a minimum age limit of six years for Class 1 admission in the academic year 2023-24.
A group of parents of children under six on June 1, 2023, sought to overturn the state government's announcement dated January 31, 2020, establishing the age limit for admission to Class 1 in the academic year 2023-24.
"Forcing children to go to a preschool below the age of 3 years is an illegal act on the part of the parents who are petitioners before us," the division bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice NV Anjaria observed.
It stated that the petitioners "cannot seek any leniency as they are guilty of violation of the mandate of the Right to Education Rules, 2012 of the Right to Education Act, 2009."
The court stated under Rule 8 of the RTE Rules, 2012, which deals with preschool admission procedures, that no preschool shall admit a child who has not completed three years of age as of June 1 of the year.
"A bare perusal of Rule 8 shows that there is a prohibition for admission of a child in a preschool who has not completed three years of age as of June 1 of the academic year. Three years of 'early childhood care and education' in a preschool prepares a child to take admission in 1st standard in a formal school."
The children whose parents filed the petition were enrolled to a preschool before they became three years old, which is the minimum age allowed for admission to a preschool in the RTE Rules, 2012, which became effective in Gujarat on February 18, 2012.
Counsel for the petitioners told the court that they are challenging the June 1 cut-off date for the present academic year only because it would deprive about nine lakh children in the state of their access to education for the current academic session.
They asked the court for permission to offer relaxation to children who had completed three years of preschool but had not reached the age of six as of June 1, 2023, for the current academic year.
The parents' claim that their children are school-ready because they have completed three years of elementary education at a preschool and were admitted there in the academic session 2020-21 does not impress the court.
According to section 2(c) of the RTE Act, 2009, a child of six years of age is entitled to admission to a nearby school in order to exercise his or her right to free and compulsory education till the conclusion of his or her elementary education.
"The right conferred upon a child by the constitutional provision of Article 21A and Section 3 of the RTE Act, 2009 begins after completion of the age of six years," the HC added.
- With inputs from agencies