Judge says neighbourhood criterion ‘arbitrary and against public interest’.
New Delhi: In a major set back to the AAP government, the Delhi high court on Tuesday stayed its controversial nursery admission notification, saying the neighbourhood criterion for admission to 298 private unaided schools was meant only for students from economically weaker section (EWS) and disadvantaged group (DG) categories.
The 58-page order by the court dealt in detail with the Right to Education (RTE) Act. It stated that only 25 per cent of seats are reserved for the economically weaker section (EWS) and disadvantaged group (DG) categories from the neighbourhood. The criterion was to address the issue of dropouts of such children if they are made to travel long distances for schooling.
Justice Manmohan termed the notification as “arbitrary, unreasonable and against the public interest” before ordering a stay on its application on the private unaided schools for this year’s nursery admission process. The court said the Directorate of Education (DoE) of the government “cannot do indirectly what it cannot do directly”, while staying the January 7 notification. The petitions had been filed by parents and two school groups challenging the Delhi government’s December 19, 2016 and January 7 notifications. The court had earlier put on hold the effect of this notification with regard to minority schools in the national capital. It said that neighbourhood criteria which was applicable for children of economically weaker section and disadvantaged groups was not applicable to general category. The court also rejected the government’s argument that the decision was taken in larger public interest by saying “public interest cannot be confined to children going to the 298 schools” on DDA land. It also sad that there was lack of good quality government schools in Delhi because of which the neighbourhood criteria cannot be properly implemented. The court also said that the admission norms based on neighbourhood criteria were “prima facie unconstitutional”. The school groups had alleged during arguments that the Delhi government has “discriminated” among schools as the neighbourhood criteria has been applied against only 298 schools while it has not been made mandatory for the other 1,400 schools in the city.
The Delhi government had defended its decision, saying that a perusal of the allotment letter “clearly and explicitly shows that lessee school had willingly accepted the terms of allotment and on the same very terms of allotment, the lessee has been enjoying the property since time of allotment”.