By S.S Selvanayagam
The Supreme Court yesterday granted leave to proceed with the fundamental rights violation petition challenging the unequal allocation of State resources to schools resulting in a privileged/under-privileged dichotomy in the education system.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice Shirani A. Bandaranayake, Justices K. Sripavan and P.A Ratnayake granted leave to proceed for the alleged infringement of the fundamental right to equality and equal protection of the law. The hearing is fixed for 3 December.
Petitioners K.T Ranjith Premalal and W.U Ranjana who are parents of Sri Devananda College, Ambalangoda filed the petition as public interest litigation.
They cited Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena, Ministry Secretary, Ministry’s Additional Secretaries H.M Chithrananda and Anura Dissanayake, the Director School Building Brach I.M Fernando, College Principal Indraratne Kaluarchchi and the Members of the Cabinet as well as the Attorney General as Respondents.
J.C Weliamuna with Pulasthi Hewamanna appeared for the Petitioners. State Counsel Yuresha de Silva appeared for the Attorney General.
Petitioners state that in the performance of their entrusted duties and obligations under the Constitution, the State is pledged to the establishment of a just social order in which the means of production, distribution and exchange are dispersed among all the People of the Republic.
They impugn inter alia the inequality evident in allocation of resources to schools situated in various Districts of the Republic, and in particular Sri Devananda College (which is a National School).
They challenge the lack of transparency and accountability evident in the decision making process leading to management and allocation/distribution of public funds for the purpose of education, such lack of transparency and accountability resulting in a privileged / under-privileged dichotomy in the education system of the Republic.
They state that the guidelines (if any) which govern the decision making process in the management and allocation of resources does not consider the need of achieving balanced regional development in the Republic, nor the need, progressively, to reduce social and economic disparities, and such situation provides for blatantly arbitrary, capricious and irrational decision making.
They state that Sri Devananda College (Ambalangoda) was established on 19-01-1887, and celebrated its 125th anniversary on 19-01-2012.
They state that in 1969, the said College was taken over by the State, and thereafter the assets and administration of the College is totally vested in the Ministry of Education.
The said College seriously suffers from lack of resources both material and human, such situation brought upon by the non transparent, unfair and discriminatory allocation of resources by the Ministry of Education, insufficiently equipped library insufficient number of academic staff, lack of sufficient classrooms and auditorium, dilapidated table tennis room, insufficient room/space, unsafe road access to the college for students and conducting classes in a condemned building.
The Petitioners complain that disproportionately, many other schools have been favoured by the State authorities and a comparatively very high allocation made to those schools.
They allege that from time to time, some of the leading schools are being granted huge sponsorships from public institutions.
Petitioners plead that right to education coupled with the right to equal treatment also requires the State to take affirmative action to reduce disparities in education.
The Petitioners state that the actions and the inactions of the Respondents are in violation of their fundamental rights to equality and equal protection of the law as guaranteed by the Constitution.