Distance norm for nursery admission stayed by HC

New Delhi: Terming it as "unreasonable", the Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed the Arvind Kejriwal led government's nursery admissions notification compelling 298 private schools, built on public land, to adopt only neighbourhood criteria.

The January 7 notification was "arbitrary and discriminatory", said Justice Manmohan while ordering a stay on the guidelines for nursery admissions in the national capital for the 2017-18 academic session.

The notification issued by the Department of Education of Delhi government had made "distance" the primary criterion for admission of tiny tots.

The court questioned the Delhi government's decision to impose the neighbourhood restriction to only those schools that are built on Delhi Development Authority land.

"Public interest cannot be confined to 298 schools," said the court.

"After all, children are uniformly affected by alleged factors of public interest and it cannot be said that public interest is to be served only in the case of children going to 298 and not to the other 1,400-odd schools," the court said.

The notification accorded priority to students living within a radius of one km from the school concerned. In case the seats remain vacant, those living within a distance of 3 km will get the chance for admission.

There are 1,400 private unaided schools in the capital, of which 298 are built on land allotted by the DDA.

The court said the notification completely takes away from the private unaided schools "the right to admit students and the right to lay down a fair, reasonable, transparent and non-exploitative procedure/criteria for admissions, leaving them with no say in their admissions whatsoever".

It also held that such notification which imposes a restriction that is absolute and prohibitory does not seem prima facie to be a 'reasonable restriction' on the fundamental right of these 298 schools and children to be considered for admission in a school of their choice.

Restricting admissions to immediate neighbourhood of the school "may result in restricting the growth and vision of the students", the court opined.

"This Court is of the prima facie view that there is potential of abuse of the definition of 'neighbourhood' as many rich parents would either shift to areas which are close to the school that they want their children to study or would get sham rent receipts/documents from owners or relatives and friends to show that they reside in such areas when they do not. There is no mechanism stipulated in the impugned notification to curb or examine the allegation of abuse," the court said.

The court also remarked that "primary cause of nursery admissions chaos is lack of good schools in Delhi".

It also said that there was lack of good quality government schools in Delhi because of which the neighbourhood criteria cannot be properly implemented.

The court's judgement came on petitions filed by two school bodies -- the Action Committee of Unaided Recognised Private Schools and Forum for Promotion of Quality Education along with a few parents to challenge the guidelines.

Earlier, the high court stayed the government's nursery admission notification that made it mandatory for private unaided minority schools to admit students, in the unreserved category, on the basis of neighbourhood criteria.(IANS)