Shubhra Hiteshbhai Gupta v. State of Gujarat, 2023

Decided on 11-08-2023…

Gujarat High Court:

The Division Bench of Sunita Agarwal, CJ, and N.V. Anjaria, J. dismissed a batch of civil petitions filed by petitioners/parents of children under the age of six as of June 1, 2023, challenging the Notification dated January 31, 2020, which prescribed an age limit of six as of June 1, 2023, for admission of a child in first standard. The Court further ruled that it is unlawful for parents to force their children to attend preschool before the age of three.


Rules 3(1) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2012 (the “RTE Rules”) were modified by a notification dated January 31, 2023. The aforementioned modification forbade elementary schools in the State of Gujarat from admitting first-graders who were not yet six years old on June 1st, the opening day of the academic year. The Joint Secretary of the Education Department issued a second notification on April 8, 2020, directing the implementation of the changes introduced by the notification dated January 31, 2020. The parents argued that since their children, who are currently no older than six, were admitted to elementary schools in Academic Session 2020–21 and successfully finished their elementary education, they were eligible to apply for admission to first standard in Academic Session 2023–24. The Notifications were contested as unlawful, improper, unfair, and unconstitutional.


The Court observed that the requirement of completing one’s sixth year of age in order to be admitted to the first standard was not contested; rather, the deadline of June 1, 2023, was challenged, arguing that this would deprive about 9 lakh children in the State of their right to an education for the current school year. Looking through the definition of “child” in Section 2(c) of the Right to Education Act, 2009 (the “RTE Act”), the Court found that a six-year-old boy or girl can be admitted to a neighbourhood school to exercise his or her right to free and compulsory education up until the end of elementary school. The Court declared that the privilege granted to a child by Article 21-A and Section 3 of the RTE Act, 2009 begins after the completion of the age of six years.

Therefore, the Court held that an extension of the admissions period is likewise to be read and understood in that context to guarantee that no child who is six years of age or older is denied entry to a school. Examining further Sections 2(c), 3, 4, 14 and 15 of the RTE Act, 2009, the Court held that a child who is older than six cannot be refused admission to a formal school and that the State must take all necessary steps to guarantee that a child who meets the RTE Act, 2009’s definition of a “child” completes elementary school without the need for a rider. According to the Court, the National Education Policy, 2020 (the “NEP”) considered the age of education below the age of six to be the age of “early childhood care and education.” The Bench pointed out that research from the NEP shows that more than 85% of a child’s total brain development happens before the age of six, highlighting the vital significance of providing the brain with the right care and stimulation in the formative years to promote healthy brain development and growth. It was also observed that a large number of young children, especially those from socioeconomically disadvantaged families, lack access to high-quality early childhood care and education.

Strong funding for early childhood care and education, according to the Bench, has the potential to provide all young children with this kind of access, allowing them to engage with and thrive in the educational system for the whole of their lives. In order to guarantee that every student entering Grade 1 is prepared for school, it was decided in the NEP that universal access to high-quality early childhood development, care, and education must be accomplished as soon as feasible and no later than 2030. Upon reviewing Rule 8 of the RTE Rules, the Court observed that a kid who is not yet three years old as of June 1st of the school year is not permitted to be admitted to a preschool. According to the Court, a kid receiving “early childhood care and education” in a preschool is better prepared to enter the first grade of a formal school.

The Court observed that the parents in attendance had enrolled their children in a preschool before they became three years old, which is the minimum age required by the RTE Rules for preschool entrance. The RTE Rules went into effect in the State of Gujarat on February 18, 2012. Thus, per the RTE Act of 2009, the Court decided that parents whose children were under six years old on June 1, 2023, could not request any kind of age relaxation or leniency because they had violated the RTE Rules. Accordingly, the Court decided that it is unlawful for parents to force their children to attend a preschool before the age of three. The Court further stated that the RTE Act, 2009, which aims to educate children at a suitable age, has a rationale behind the six-year-old cutoff date for admission to the first standard. The NEP, 2020, makes it abundantly clear that children under the age of six are not prepared for school, as they are still in the “early childhood care and development” stage of life.

Consequently, the petitions were dismissed by the Court due to their lack of merit.

Adv. Khanak Sharma

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