In a landmark judgment on April 12, 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the provision in the Right to Education Act, 2009 that makes it mandatory for all schools (government and private) except private, unaided minority schools to reserve 25% of their seats for children belonging to “weaker section and disadvantaged group”.  The verdict was given by a three-judge bench namely Justice S.H. Kapadia (CJI), Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan.  However, the judgment was not unanimous.  Justice Radhakrishnan gave a dissenting view to the majority judgment. According to news reports (here and here), some school associations are planning to file review petitions against the Supreme Court order (under Article 137 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court may review any judgment or order made by it.  A review petition may be filed if there is (a) discovery of new evidence, (b) an error apparent on the face of the record, or (c) any other sufficient reason). In this post, we summarise the views of the judges. Background of the petition The 86th (Constitutional Amendment) Act, 2002 added Article 21A to the Constitution which makes it mandatory for the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from the age of six to 14 years (fundamental right).  The Parliament enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 to give effect to this amendment. The Act provides that children between the ages of six and 14 years have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school.  It also lays down the minimum norms that each school has to follow in order to get legal recognition.  The Act required government schools to provide free and compulsory education to all admitted children. Similarly, aided schools have to provide free and compulsory education proportionate to the funding received, subject to a minimum of 25%. However, controversy erupted over Section 12(1)(c) and (2) of the Act, which required private, unaided schools to admit at least 25% of students from SCs, STs, low-income and other disadvantaged or weaker groups.  The Act stated that these schools shall be reimbursed for either their tuition charge or the per-student expenditure in government schools, whichever is lower.  After the Act was notified on April 1, 2010, the Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan filed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of this provision on the ground that it impinged on their right to run educational institutions without government interference. Summary of the judgment Majority The Act is constitutionally valid and shall apply to (a) government controlled schools, (b) aided schools (including minority administered schools), and (c) unaided, non-minority schools.  The reasons are given below: First, Article 21A makes it obligatory on the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children between 6 and 14 years of age.  However, the manner in which the obligation shall be discharged is left to the State to determine by law.  Therefore, the State has the freedom to decide whether it shall fulfill its obligation through its own schools, aided schools or unaided schools.  The 2009 Act is “child centric” and not “institution centric”.  The main question was whether the Act violates Article 19(1)(g) which gives every citizen the right to practice a profession or carry out any occupation, trade or business.  However, the Constitution provides that Article 19(1)(g) may be circumscribed by Article 19(6), which allow reasonable restriction over this right in the interest of the general public.  The Court stated that since “education” is recognized as a charitable activity [see TMA Pai Foundation vs State of Karnataka (2002) 8 SCC 481] reasonable restriction may apply. Second, the Act places a burden on the State as well as parents/guardians to ensure that every child has the right to education.  Thus, the right to education “envisages a reciprocal agreement between the State and the parents and it places an affirmative burden on all stakeholders in our civil society.”  The private, unaided schools supplement the primary obligation of the State to provide for free and compulsory education to the specified category of students. Third, TMA Pai and P.A. Inamdar judgments hold that the right to establish and administer educational institutions fall within Article 19(1)(g).  It includes right to admit students and set up reasonable fee structure.  However, these principles were applied in the context of professional/higher education where merit and excellence have to be given due weightage.  This does not apply to a child seeking admission in Class I.  Also, Section 12(1)(c) of the Act seeks to remove financial obstacle.  Therefore, the 2009 Act should be read with Article 19(6) which provides for reasonable restriction on Article 19(1)(g).  However, the government should clarify the position with regard to boarding schools and orphanages. The Court also ruled that the 2009 Act shall not apply to unaided, minority schools since they are protected by Article 30(1) (all minorities have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice).  This right of the minorities is not circumscribed by reasonable restriction as is the case under Article 19(1)(g). Dissenting judgment Article 21A casts an obligation on the State to provide free and compulsory education to children of the age of 6 to 14 years.  The obligation is not on unaided non-minority and minority educational institutions.  Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act can be operationalised only on the principles of voluntariness, autonomy and consensus for unaided schools and not on compulsion or threat of non-recognition.  The reasons for such a judgment are given below: First, Article 21A says that the “State shall provide” not “provide for”.  Therefore, the constitutional obligation is on the State and not on non-state actors to provide free and compulsory education to a specified category of children.  Also, under Article 51A(k) of the Constitution, parents or guardians have a duty to provide opportunities for education to their children but not a constitutional obligation. Second, each citizen has the fundamental right to establish and run an educational institution “investing his own capital” under Article 19(1)(g).  This right can be curtailed in the interest of the general public by imposing reasonable restrictions.  Citizens do not have any constitutional obligation to start an educational institution.  Therefore, according to judgments of TMA Pai and PA Inamdar, they do not have any constitutional obligation to share seats with the State or adhere to a fee structure determined by the State.  Compelling them to do so would amount to nationalization of seats and would constitute serious infringement on the autonomy of the institutions. Rights guaranteed to the unaided non-minority and minority educational institutions under Article 19(1)(g) and Article 30(1) can only be curtailed through a constitutional amendment (for example, insertion of Article 15(5) that allows reservation of seats in private educational institutions). Third, no distinction can be drawn between unaided minority and non-minority schools with regard to appropriation of quota by the State. Other issues related to the 2009 Act Apart from the issue of reservation, the RTE Act raises other issues such as lack of accountability of government schools and lack of focus on learning outcomes even though a number of studies have pointed to low levels of learning among school children.  (For a detailed analysis, please see PRS Brief on the Bill).

On October 2, 2021, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) celebrates its seventh anniversary.  It was launched on October 2, 2014 to fulfil the vision of a cleaner India by October 2, 2019.  The objective of the Mission was to eliminate open defecation, eradicate manual scavenging, and promote scientific solid waste management.  In this blog post, we discuss the sanitation coverage leading up to the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission and the progress made under this scheme.

Nation-wide sanitation programmes in past

According to the Census, the rural sanitation coverage in India was only 1% in 1981.  

The first nationwide programme with a focus on sanitation was the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), which was started in 1986 to provide sanitation facilities in rural areas.  Later, in 1999, CRSP was restructured and launched as the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC).  While CRSP was a supply-driven infrastructure-oriented programme based on subsidy, TSC was a demand-driven, community-led, project-based programme organised around the district as the unit.

By 2001, only 22% of the rural families had access to toilets.  It increased further to 32.7% by 2011.  In 2012, TSC was revamped as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) to accelerate the sanitation coverage in rural areas through saturation approach and by enhancing incentives for Individual Household Latrines (IHHL).

In comparison to rural sanitation, fewer programmes were enacted to tackle deficiencies in urban sanitation.  In the 1980s, the Integrated Low-Cost Sanitation Scheme provided subsidies for households to build low-cost toilets.  Additionally, the National Slum Development Project and its replacement programme, the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana launched in 2001, were programmes that aimed to construct community toilets for slum populations.  In 2008, the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) was announced to manage human excreta and associated public health and environmental impacts.

On October 2, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched with two components: Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), to focus on rural and urban sanitation, respectively.  While the rural component of the Mission is implemented under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the urban one is implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.  In 2015, the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan under NITI Aayog had observed that the key difference between SBM and previous programmes was in the efforts to attract more partners to supplement public sector investment towards sanitation.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Gramin (SBM-Gramin)

The Sub-Group of Chief Ministers (2015) had noted that more than half of India’s 25 crore households do not have access to toilets close to places where they live.  Notably, during the 2015-19 period, a major portion of expenditure under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation was towards SBM-Gramin (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin during 2014-22

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates.  Expenditure before 2019-20 were from the erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. 
Sources: Union Budgets 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The expenditure towards Swachh Bharat – Gramin saw a steady increase from 2014-15 (Rs 2,841 crore) to 2017-18 (Rs 16,888 crore) and a decrease in the subsequent years.  Moreover, during 2015-18, the expenditure of the scheme exceeded the budgeted amount by more than 10%.  However, every year since 2018-19, there has been some under-utilisation of the allocated amount. 

As per the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, 43.8% of the rural households had access to toilets in 2014-15, which increased to 100% in 2019-20 (see Figure 2).  However, the 15th Finance Commission (2020) noted that the practice of open defecation is still prevalent, despite access to toilets and highlighted that there is a need to sustain the behavioural change of people for using toilets. The Standing Committee on Rural Development raised a similar concern in 2018, noting that “even a village with 100% household toilets cannot be declared open defecation-free (ODF) till all the inhabitants start using them”.  The Standing Committee also raised questions over the construction quality of toilets and observed that the government is counting non-functional toilets, leading to inflated data.

Figure 2: Toilet coverage for rural households

Sources: Dashboard of SBM (Gramin), Ministry of Jal Shakti; PRS.

The 15th Finance Commission also noted that the scheme only provides financial incentives to construct latrines to households below the poverty line (BPL) and selected households above the poverty line.  It highlighted that there are considerable exclusion errors in finding BPL households and recommended the universalisation of the scheme to achieve 100% ODF status.

In March 2020, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Phase II of SBM-Gramin which will focus on ODF Plus, and will be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh crore.  ODF Plus includes sustaining the ODF status, and solid and liquid waste management.  Specifically, it will ensure that effective solid and liquid waste management is instituted in every Gram Panchayat of the country.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-Urban)

SBM-Urban aims at making urban India free from open defecation and achieving 100% scientific management of municipal solid waste in 4,000+ towns in the country.  One of its targets was the construction of 66 lakh individual household toilets (IHHLs) by October 2, 2019.  However, this target was then lowered to 59 lakh IHHLS by 2019.  This target was achieved by 2020 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Toilet construction under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (as of December 30, 2020)


Original Target

Revised Target  
(revised in 2019)

Actual Constructed

Individual Household Latrines




Community and Public Toilets




Sources: Swachh Bharat Mission Urban - Dashboard; PRS.

Figure 3: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban during 2014-22 (in Rs crore)

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates. 
Sources: Union Budget 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The Standing Committee on Urban Development noted in early 2020 that toilets built under the scheme in areas including East Delhi are of very poor quality, and do not have adequate maintenance.  Further, only 1,276 of the 4,320 cities declared to be open defecation free have toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene.  Additionally, it also highlighted in September 2020 that uneven release of funds for solid waste management across states/UTs needs to be corrected to ensure fair implementation of the programme. 

The Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021) also expressed concern about the slow pace in achieving targets for source segregation and waste processing.  The completion of their targets stood at 78% and 68% respectively of the goal set under SBM-Urban during 2020-21.  In addition, other targets related to the door-to-door collection of waste also remained unfulfilled (see Table 2).

Table 2: Waste management under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (progress as of December 30, 2020)



as of March 2020

as of December 2020

Door to Door Waste Collection (Wards)


81,535 (96%)

83,435 (97%)

Source Segregation (Wards)


64,730 (75%)

67,367 (78%)

Waste Processing (in %)




Sources: Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021); PRS.

In February 2021, the Finance Minister announced in her budget speech that the Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be launched.  Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will focus on: (i) sludge management, (ii) waste-water treatment, (iii) source segregation of garbage, (iv) reduction in single-use plastics and (v) control of air pollution caused by construction, demolition, and bio-remediation of dumpsites.  On October 1, 2021, the Prime Minister launched SBM-Urban 2.0 with the mission to make all our cities ‘Garbage Free’.