State of Tamil Nadu & Ors. v. K Shyam Sunder & Ors., (2011) 8  SCC 737



In 2011, the Supreme Court of India ruled in State of Tamil Nadu & Ors vs K Shyam Sunder that a child’s right to education includes the right to a quality education without discrimination. The court also found fault with the report of an expert committee and struck down Section 3 of the Amendment Act 2011. The court directed the state to distribute textbooks printed under the uniform system of education to enable teachers to start classes.

The case was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The petitioner sought a Writ of Declaration to declare that the substituted Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Uniform System of School Education (Amendment) Act, 2011 was ultra vires the Constitution.

The right to education is a fundamental 2010 held that the provisions of Sections 11, 12 and 14 were unconstitutional and struck down the same while the Court issued elaborate directions for implementation of the common syllabus and the textbooks for Standards I and VI by the academic year 2010-11; and for all other Standards by the academic year 2011-12 right under Article 21-A of the Constitution.

Keywords: Education Act, Constitution of India Education Board system, Standing committee.


Judgement Cause TitleState of Tamil Nadu & Ors.v. K Shyam Sunder & Ors
Case NumberCivil Appeal Nos. 6015-6027/2011
Judgement DateAugust 09 ,2011
CourtSupreme Court of India
QuorumJ.MPanchal,DeepakVerma,B.S Chauhan
AuthorB.S Chauhan
Citation(2011) 8 SCC 737
Legal Provisions InvolvedSec 3, 29, and 34 of Tamil Nadu Uniform System of Education (Amendment) Act,2011. Article 14, 21-A 226 of the Constitution of India Section 3,3(b) of the Uniform System of Education Act,2010  


The Government of Tamil Nadu sought to implement a uniform system of school education in the state through the Tamil Nadu Uniform System of School Education Act, 2010. However, the Private Schools’ Association challenged the Act on various grounds, including interference with the right of children to choose their preferred system of education.

The Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petitions filed by the aggrieved parties, uphold- ing the judgment of the Division Bench. The uniform syllabus and common textbooks for Standards I and VI were already being followed from the Academic Year 2010-2011.


  1. Additionally, the State was instructed to list acceptable texts that private, independent schools could select as appropriate for their settings. In addition, the Court ordered the Government to revise the Act so that it would no longer apply to co-curricular subjects and would only cover the five required curricular topics—English, Tamil, Mathematics, Science, and Social Science—that the schools were required to teach. This Court properly accepted the aforementioned judgment on September 10, 2010, issuing a spoken order dismissing many of the SLPs that had been filed in opposition to it.
  2. 2.The Amendment Act of 2011 went into effect on July 6, 2011, and the new academic year was scheduled to start on January 6, 2011. Numerous writ petitions contesting the aforementioned modification were submitted. By order dated 10.6.101, a Division Bench of the High Court suspended the implementation of the Amendment Act of 2011, but allowed the State Government to carry out an extensive examination of the common syllabus and textbooks. The order also made it clear that the State Government would have the right to add, amend, replace, or change any chapter, paragraph, or section of the textbooks, among other things. Additionally, the order allowed private school managements to submit their list of books to the government for approval.
  3. On the other hand, the respondents’ attorneys, Prashant Bhushan and N.G.R. Prasad, as well as senior advocates Shri T.R. Andhyarujina, Basava Prabhu S. Patil, R. Viduthalai, Dhruv Mehta, M.N. Krishnamani, and Ravi Verma Kumar, have argued that the Amendment Act is a political fallout from the change in government. On May 16, 2011, the new government was sworn in. On February 25, 2011, the Cabinet made the solely political decision to forgo implementing the uniform education system because they had any supporting documentation to determine that the Act of 2010 could not be implemented.
  4. By decree dated 25.5.2011, the academic session, which was scheduled to begin on 1.6.2011, was postponed, extending the summer break until 15.6.2011. On January 6, 2011, the Cabinet’s decision was contested in the High Court through the filing of writ petitions. While these cases were pending, the Amendment Act of 2011 was hastily passed, an act that was entirely arbitrary and unjustified and was motivated solely by political expediency. On 7.6.2011, the Amendment Act 2011 was officially enacted. It went into force retroactively on 22.5.2011, the day the Cabinet decided not to carry out the Act 2010 as planned.
  5. The appeals lack merit and are liable to be dismissed
  6. No child should be required to pay tuition since it would satisfy the needs of parents who make an average living and enable them to send their kids to such institutions. In 1991, the Yashpal Committee reaffirmed and accepted the Kothari Commission’s recommendations. In this context, the general population in Tamil Nadu has been calling for the implementation of a universal education system for all children.


  1. Whether the committee constituted to examine the implementation of the Uniform System of Scholl Education Act was biased and exceeded its mandate?
  2. Whether the Amendment Act ,which put the implementation of the Uniform System of Education on hold,is unconstitutional?
  3. Whether the textbooks already printed should be discrded?


  1. The counsels for Petitioner / Appellant submitted that If the contested Amending Act were to take effect, it would raise a number of unpleasant questions and endanger children’s interests more broadly.
  2. Thus, it is evident from the overwhelming evidence that the repealed Act will automatically reappear after it is repealed and the amending Act is declared invalid by the court for being ultra vires/unconstitutional due to legislative incompetence. This argument was made by learned senior counsel on behalf of the respondents.


  1. The counsels for Respondent submitted thatThe committee members were divided on whether the shared textbooks and consistent syllabus should be abandoned starting with the current school year. Every participant has identified various flaws and made suggestions for additions and modifications.
    1. The textbooks and prices for the books of Standards VIIIth, IXth, and Xth were approved by the Secretary of the Government of Tamil Nadu School Education Department, who was given the authority to advocate on behalf of the State, by a Government Order dated 9.5.2011.


  1. Sec 3, 29, and 34 of Tamil Nadu Uniform System of Education (Amendment) Act,2011.
  2. Article 14, 21-A, & 226 of the Constitution of India
  3. Section 3,3(b) of the Uniform System of Education Act ,2010


The Supreme Court had examined the records and taken into account the opposing submissions from the parties’ knowledgeable attorneys and observed that:

  1. Government-authorized textbooks in all subjects, both curricular and extracurricular, are produced and acknowledged by the government. The report submitted by the so-constituted Committee may not have been warranted in advocating for the omission of the existing text books and the complete replacement of the universal education system. The Expert Committee made a mistake in determining its course since it should have focused on looking into how to establish the universal system of education. Intriguingly, the Committee determined in its final report that no textbook could be utilized for the 2011–12 academic year.
    1. In order to comply with the directive issued earlier on 30.4.2010, the High Court ordered the Government to notify the approved text books after conducting the study in the ruling dated 10.6.2011. This directive has been issued to the schools so that students may select from a variety of text books. But the State has disregarded these directives and orders.
    1. In the event that the law was enacted merely on record but, in reality, served to accomplish an unapproved purpose, the court would have the right to lift the curtain and conduct a judicial examination of the matter.
    1. The government must shun window-dressing and rise above the intersection of nepotism and vested interests. “The principles of governance have to be tested on the touchstone of justice, equity, fair play and if a decision is not based on justice, equity and fair play and has taken into consideration other matters, though on the face of it, the decision may look legitimate but as a matter of fact, the reasons are not based on values but to achieve popular accolade, that decision cannot be allowed to operate” . (vide- Union of India & Anr. v. Onkar Lal Bajaj et al., AIR 2003 SC 2562).
    1. When enacting a statute, the legislature’s motivation is irrelevant: “Malice or motive is beside the point, and it is not permissible to suggest parliamentary incompetence on the score of mala fides.”
    1. Although it might not be needed to examine all of these points in-depth given that the High Court has already addressed them in great length, the current case needs to be reviewed in the context of the aforementioned established legal principles.
    1. The Act 2010 was enacted to enforce the uniform education system in the State of Tamil Nadu in order to impart quality education to all children, without any discrimination on the ground of their economic, social or cultural background.
    1. The Act itself provided for its commencement giving the academic years though, in phased programme i.e. for Standards I to VI from the academic year 2010-2011; and for other Standards from academic year 2011-2012, thus, enforcement was not dependent on any further notification.
    1. The Act’s legitimacy was contested by a number of people, organizations, and societies, including parents of kids, but mostly by private school associations that opposed the state’s common education program. The Act’s legitimacy was upheld by the dismissal of the writ petitions. Nonetheless, the High Court invalidated a few provisions—specifically, Sections 11, 12, and 14—in a ruling and order dated April 30, 2010. A spoken order from this Court dated 10.9.2010 duly approved the aforementioned High Court verdict. Executive directives might have been issued in order to comply with the instructions provided by the High Court in the aforementioned judgment. Furthermore, it was possible to comply with the High Court’s directives even by altering the schedule as provided in the judgment dated 30.4.2010 itself.
    1. The High Court’s interim orders were contested before this court, and the appeals were resolved with a judgment and order dated 14.6.2011. The court issued numerous directives, one of which was to form an Expert Committee to investigate potential enforcement strategies for the Common Education System. The evidence presented by the respondents in front of this court shows that standards were known and that the Tamil Nadu Curriculum 2009 was used to apply the NCF 2005.
    1. It was necessary to take action to eliminate the disparity considering the aforementioned, the appeals are without substance. The case’s facts and circumstances don’t offer any unique characteristics that call for this Court to become involved. Consequently, the appeals are denied. Within ten days of today, the appellants are required to enforce the High Court judgment that is being contested.


Every factual aspect is the subject of claims and counterclaims, and the High Court has, in Supreme Court’s opinion, gone into unnecessary detail while addressing each one. The Supreme Court aslo observed in the case that with regard to the legal concern associated with the modification of policy in connection with a change in the government’s validated legislation unless an appeal or review overturns the decision, the judgment remains in place where a legislative act retroactively modifies the factual or legal circumstances. The judicial power would be violated if legislation were introduced to overturn a competent court’s decision. Additionally, no legislation could be passed to overturn a court’s mandamus ruling, even if the amended statute might not mention such an objection. If one crore twenty lacs students are now to revert back to the multiple syllabus with the syllabus and textbooks applicable prior to 2010 after the academic term of 2011-12 has begun, they would be utterly confused and would be put to enormous stress. It is not necessary to subject students to such extreme pressure and stress. As a result, the government’s overall operation is capricious, prejudiced, and harsh against parents, instructors, and pupils.

The supreme court also observed that the State Government should have acted bearing in mind that “destiny of a nation rests with its youths“. Personality of a child is developed at the time of basic education during his formative years of life. Their career should not be left in dolorific conditions with uncertainty to such a great extent. The younger generation has to compete in global market. Education is not a consumer service nor the educational institution can be equated with shops, therefore, “there are statutory prohibitions for establishing and administering educational institution without prior permission or approval by the authority concerned.


Important Cases Referred

State of Orissa v. Mamta Mohanty, (2011) 3 SCC 436

Osmania University Teachers’ Assn. v. State of A.P. & Anr., AIR 1987 SC 2034

State of Karnataka & Anr. v. All India Manufacturers Organisation & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 1846

State of U.P. & Anr. v. Johri Mal, AIR 2004 SC 3800

State of Haryana v. State of Punjab & Anr., AIR 2002 SC 685

M.I. Builders Pvt. Ltd. v. V. Radhey Shyam Sahu & Ors., AIR 1999 SC 2468

Deep Chand & Ors. v. State of U.P. & Ors., AIR 1959 SC 648

Behram Khurshid Pesikaka v. State of Bombay AIR 1955 SC 123

Mahendra Lal Jaini v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. AIR 1963 SC 1019

Important Statutes Referred

Tamil Nadu Uniform System of Education Act, 2010

Tamil Nadu Uniform System of Education (Amendment)Act,2011

Constitution of India, 1950

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