New Delhi: The Supreme Court has questioned the lack of separate schools and distinctly trained teachers for students who suffer from autism, blindness and deafness.
The apex court observed that it is "impossible to think" that children, who are disabled or suffer from any kind of disability or are mentally challenged, can be imparted education in mainstream schools along with normal children.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that access to education has now been regarded as a fundamental right under Article 21A and there was a statutory obligation on the States to provide education under the Rights of Children to Free and Compulsary Education Act, 2009.
"We are of the prima facie view that the children with special needs have to be imparted education not only by special teachers but there have to be special schools for them," the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
The bench asked the Uttar Pradesh government to file an affidavit keeping its observation in mind in four weeks and specify when the state is going to meet the obligation.
It listed the matter for further hearing on November 27. "When we say 'disability', we do not mean 'disability' as has been defined in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 includes certain physical disabilities which may not be a warrant for getting admission in special schools," the bench said.
Emphasising the need for a separate system, the court said "the students who suffer from blindness, deafness and autism or such types of disorder may be required to have separate schools with distinctly trained teachers".
The bench was hearing a plea filed by Rajneesh Kumar Pandey through advocate Prashant Shukla, claiming lack of sufficient number of special educators in Uttar Pradesh and other states to teach the Children With Special Needs (CWSN).
Additional Advocate General Aishwarya Bhati appearing for Uttar Pradesh said the State is committed to impart education to the children with special needs.
She said the State had already commenced the procedure for engaging 12,000 teachers, of whom some would be teachers for children with special needs.
Counsel for Centre said that under the new integrated education scheme, CWSN were being taught along with children who do not suffer from any disability.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development and the UP government claimed that CWSN were being taught under the integrated scheme to ensure they do not get demoralised or feel alienated.
It was contended that teaching such children along with the normal kids without disability would boost the confidence of those disabled and stop their isolation from the normal environment in schools.
The petition, by 17 teachers who claim to have undertaken the training required to teach CWSN, has contended that to make Right to Education a success, it is necessary that qualified special educators are there in each school so that disabled kids can be prepared to face the challenges of life.
The Punjab government was also faced with the same query from the bench in another similar matter in the apex court.