Unnikrishnan v. State of Andhra Pradesh [1993 AIR 217]

The Supreme Court declared Right to Education as a part of right to life as under Article 21.

Bench – M. Sharma, S.R. Pandian, P. Jeevan Reddy, S. Mohan and P. Bharucha.

Facts – The heart of the case is a series of petitions filed by private educational institutions challenging state laws. These laws mandated the regulation of capitation fee charges in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.  Some organisations in the stated states have already filed a petition with the Supreme Court. It also prepared the path for the landmark Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka decision to be called into question. Furthermore, the purview and applicability of Article 21 are being questioned in relation to the right to education.

Issues – 

  • Whether the right to education as enshrined under the fundamental rights cover education for a medical, engineering or other professional degree or not?
  • Whether the right to education is guaranteed under the provision of the Constitution as a fundamental right or not?
  • Whether a fundamental right can be applied in order to establish an educational institution under Article 19(1)(g)?
  • Does recognition or affiliation render the educational institution as an instrumentality?

Judgment – It was decided by the court in this case that the right to education comes under right to life as under Article 21 and fundamental rights of an individual. The fundamental rights which have been envisaged and guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution can be divided into two categories, i.e., an injunction prohibiting the State from rejecting certain fundamental rights, such as Articles 14 and 21; and a positive regulation of such fundamental rights envisaged as per Articles 19, 25, and 26 of Constitution.

Similarly, Article 21 was presented with negative language that violates a fundamental human right. It protects against the deprivation of life or personal liberty. 

It was held by the court that Parts III and IV are not exclusive of each other, but rather complementary, and thus any directive state policy can be transferred to a citizen’s fundamental right. A number of rights, including the right to travel abroad, the right to privacy, the right against solitary confinement, right to legal aid, doctor’s assistance, right to a speedy trial, right against handcuffing, right against delayed execution, right against public hanging, were reaffirmed as part of Article 21. Therefore, the provisions of Article 21 are regarded as the soul of the Constitution, which have evolved over time and that there is no error in the interpretation of it in compliance with Article 45 of the Constitution. The only exception is when the rejection of the right to life and liberty is supported by a just and fair piece of legislation. 

Furthermore, the court held that education is considered as a crucial form in an individual’s life as per the provisions of Article 41, 45 and 46 and it is the duty of the State to make effective steps in order to secure the right to education as well as free and compulsory education till age of 14. 

The court also ruled that the right to establish an institution is granted as per Article 19 (1) (g). However, it cannot be considered equivalent to the right of religious and linguistic minorities in formation educational institutions, since it is a special right which is granted to minority citizens in order to provide them with security.

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