A girl goes to school | Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
Representational image | Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
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New Delhi: Schools looking to group students according to marks — for example, placing high scorers of a class in ‘section A’ and those who fare poorly in ‘section B’ — are violating pupils’ fundamental rights, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has ruled.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Dr Neetu Kukar, a resident of Faridkot, Punjab, whose daughter studies in Class 8 in a local school. 

According to her plea, from Class 6 onwards, the school divides children into sections on the basis of how well they had done in the previous examination. 

Issuing a judgment in the petitioner’s favour, a single-judge bench of Justice Sudhir Mittal said Friday Article 21A, which makes elementary education a fundamental right, also requires that a child be given an “atmosphere conducive to all-round development”. 

“It is the duty of a school to ensure that children are not subjected to negative inputs which have the effect of inducing a feeling of inferiority,” the court added. 

“Classification of children into sections on the basis of their marks has the tendency of creating a feeling of inferiority amongst children securing less marks and, thus, the practice is a violation of fundamental right of elementary education,” it said.

Justice Mittal also observed that the practice violated students’ right to equal opportunity. 

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“If an action induces a sense of inferiority in a child, it is being denied the right to development and growth at par with a child who does not suffer from such feeling of inferiority,” the court said. “Under the constitutional scheme, institutions providing elementary education are bound to create a free and open atmosphere that promotes a sense of equality. Any action which promotes inequality cannot be permitted.”

Also Read: Can govt school students in India do better? This is what an experimental policy showed

‘Age-old norm’ — school tried to defend practice

According to the court’s judgment, another parent had raised a grievance similar to Kukar’s with the school principal after her daughter tried to harm herself when she did not make it to the “top section”. 

The parent had also written to officials of the central government, state government, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and the Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Following the letter, the Punjab State Commission for Protection of Child Rights directed the school last August to stop the practice. It also ordered a reshuffle of sections within 10 days. 

However, this order was later modified, allowing the school to continue with the practice until the end of the academic session. 

In court, the school defended the practice, saying it was an “age-old norm” to bring homogeneity in the class, and alleged that the complaint was “motivated”. It also challenged the commission’s order, demanding that the school be allowed to continue with the practice. 

The court rejected the school’s arguments. 

It also ruled that the commission could not have modified its order as it did not have the right to review its own directives. The modified order was, therefore, set aside.

Even so, the court noted that school examinations were around the corner and directed the school to end the practice from the next academic session. 

Also Read: How Haryana made government school education a political priority


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8 Comments Share Your Views


  1. I don’t think schools who classify students based on performance work that way.
    Also classification and reclassification is an ongoing process.
    Child A may be very quick on the uptake .
    One teacher teaches children like A,A1,A2,…..Ax the basics and moves to higher realms quickly.
    Child D,E and F may require a detailed explanation on every issue .They are failures but not as sharp as some children. These children probably excell in fine arts or dramatics .They could spend time polishing those skills.
    Consider the problem of the School if Child A is made to sit in class with class E,F and G . Either the teacher will not be able to devote adequate time to the later or child A,A1 and A2 will be marking time and after a while loose interest in Studies and concentrate on other anti-social issues.
    Earlier,the students could get “Double Promotion” once or even twice to maintain a challenging environment for the brilliant performers.The rigid rules of schooling now precludes such quick advancement.
    The school has evolved a correct method of facilitating the human rights of all students including the brilliant ones. Courts and overzealous parents should be restrained from ruining it.

  2. Leave it to the school teachers and PTA’s to sort out education. Enough mess has been created in 2G, Mining, Cricket and NRC by the courts.

    Let the courts not mess with future generations at least!

  3. Since a lower mark could potentially expose the student to feelings of inferiority, every student must receive 100/100 and fulsome praise from the teacher irrespective of the answers in the examination sheet !

  4. School is doing all sort of thing against prevailing laws, my son studying in class II in KV school is forced out of school since a month post fake allegations of being a child who has touched her teacher (58 yrs) inappropriately. Does a child aged 8 yes have that orientation? They have preconditioned to submit his assessment report for his reinstatement. My son’s only fault is he has speech delay and some social behavioural issue (mild autism)

  5. Equality is a chimera. Like five fingers of a palm, people are different. It is one thing to grant equality before law and equal protection of law under Article 14 of the Constitution. But, it is ridiculous to extend it every walk of life such as class rooms and temples. The supreme court is held for ransom by busy body PIL factory. The court is foolishly interfering in every walk of life.

    • Civilised world adopt constitution to guide their society in a civilised, dignified and lawful way. Courts have a most important role to see individual or community rights are not violated.


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