Bench: Chief Justice L.M. Sharma, Justice S.P. Bharucha, Justice S.R. Pandian, Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy and Justice S. Mohan

Petitioner: Unni Krishnan, J.P. and Ors Respondent: State of Andhra Pradesh and Ors.

Citation: 1993 AIR 2178, 1993 SCR (1) 594


  • Whether a citizen has a Fundamental Right to education for a medical, engineering or other professional degree?
  • Whether the Constitution of India guarantees a fundamental right to education to its citizens?
  • Whether a citizen has the fundamental right to establish and run an educational institution under Article 19(1)(g)?
  • Whether the grant of permission to establish and the grant of affiliation by a University imposes an obligation upon an educational institution to act fairly in the matter of admission of the students?


  • The case comes through petitions filed by private educational institutions to challenge the state laws in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

These states enacted a law to regulate the capitation fee charges by private educational institutions.

  • The suit also questions the judgment given by the apex court in Mohini Jain V. State of Karnataka, 1992 AIR 1858, 1992 SCR (3) 658. Mohini Jain was a non-Karnataka student who applied for admission in M.B.B.S. in a private medical college in Karnataka. She was asked to pay Rs 60,000 for the first year’s fees and submit bank guarantee for the rest of the period. She was not admitted to the college because she was not in a position to pay the fees. She was asked to pay a capitation fee of Rs.4,50,000 as a condition of admission by the management. She came up to this court under Article 32 challenging the notification of the Karnataka Government and asking for a direction to be admitted on payment of the same fee as was payable by the Karnataka students admitted against the “Government Seats”.
  • The court was of the view that Parts III and IV of the Constitution are supplementary and unless the right to education mentioned in Article 41 is made a reality, the fundamental rights in Part III will remain beyond the reach of the illiterate majority.
  • Article 21 was interpreted to include the right to live with human dignity. “The ‘right to education’ flows directly from right to life.” In simple language, right to education is associated to the fundamental right in Part III of the Constitution. The state has the duty to provide free education at all the levels.
  • The court held that the notification of Karnataka Government was outside the ambit of the act. The appeal of Miss Mohini was allowed.
  • Then, the private institutions came before the court pleading that if the Mohini Jain Judgment is implemented they will be forced to close down their institutions.

Argument raised by Petitioners:

  • That how the private institutions are running colleges and universities is similar to an industry.
  • The petitioner raised the argument that by Mohini Jain Case Judgment it is clear that it is the duty of the state to impart education to all.
  • The State does not have a monopoly in imparting education as, every citizen has the fundamental right to establish an educational institution as a part of the right guaranteed to him by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
  • Even if a person does not have a right to open up an educational institution as an industry, he has the right to establish a self-financing educational institution.
  • The Government or University that the private educational institutions should admit students only on merit as it has been recognised by this court that one who pays for the education can stipulate the procedure in which he well admit students. The recognitions won’t make a college or university a state organ.

Argument raised by Respondent:

  • The respondent focused most of its contention on the fact that under Article 45 it is the duty of state to give free education till the age of 14 years and stated that how the states are working for imparting primary education.
  • Imparting education has always been recognised as a religious duty, it has been never recognised as a trade or business. It is a mission, not a trade.
  • Providing education to children has been considered the most important function of the State.
  • The concept of collecting the cost of the education is wrong and is opposed to public policy.
  • It is upon the Government or the University to make it compulsory in order to get recognition/affiliation that the admission shall be on the basis of merit and merit alone.
  • Providing education is the duty of the state and the state has the authority to make rules and regulations. Any action on part of the educational institution shall be deemed to be a ‘state action’ because they take actions as per the rules made by state.
  • It was contended that the Central Government does not have resources to take any additional financial responsibility for medical or technical education. As the total budget the health sector gets is 3.2% and medical education gets a pro-rata share. So, the Government cannot help any private educational institution financially.


The court held that conferring upon the state a constitutional obligation to impart free education at every level for every citizen directly or indirectly via State agencies is not stated in the Constitution and it is unrealistic. A private educational institution does not become an agency when the Government grants it recognition and it is not possible to do so. The principles laid down in Mohini Jain’s case do require reconsideration. It will not be wise to discourage private initiative in providing educational facilities, as the private sector will help us in growing and moving forward; and will also strengthen our education standards. Regulations on the private should be made more stringent to ensure that private educational institutions maintain minimum standards and facilities. Admissions should be based on merit in all categories, subject to reservation to some categories like economically weaker sections and; the procedures and norms should be dealt with in advance.

The court stated that cannot be contended that education must be available free and it must be run on a charitable basis.

The citizens have a fundamental right to education and it is enshrined in Article 21, though not an absolute right. It has to be read with Article 41 and 45 which implies that every citizen of this country has a right to free education till he attains 14 years. Then it is subject to economic capacity of state. Obligations under Articles 41, 45 and 46 on the state can be discharged by starting institutions of its own or by aiding, recognising or granting affiliation to private educational institutions. The private institutions right to charge higher fee, not exceeding the ceiling fixed.

A citizen can establish an educational institution but does not has a right to affiliation or recognition or to grant-in-aid from the State. Any Government/University or authority is not competent to grant recognition or affiliation except in accordance with the scheme defined by this court. Those receiving aid will be subject terms and conditions.

Section 3-A of the Andhra Pradesh Educational Institutions Act, 1983 violate the right to equality under Article 14 and was declared void. The declaration of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in this behalf is affirmed. Appeal and Petitions were disposed off.