The Delhi High Court Tuesday ruled that private schools on government land will not have to follow the “neighbourhood” rule in the current nursery admission season. The rule mandated that all such schools have to fill 75 per cent of seats with candidates from between 1-6 km of the school’s radius.
The court held that the January 7 notification, issued by Delhi government, was “prima facie arbitrary and discriminatory”. The government notification mandated that schools either don’t refuse admission to children living within 1 km of the school, or fill at least 75 per cent of the seats with candidates from the neighbourhood. The notification covered 298 schools, which received land from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
As per the notification, if any seat remained vacant after admitting students from within 1 km, children living between 1 and 3 km of the school would be given priority. One of the petitioners, Forum for Promotion of Quality Education for All, argued that under the current laws, all private schools fall under the same category, so the state government cannot single out 298 schools.
Agreeing to the contention, the court held that “if the state has not found the reason of public interest, that is traffic congestion, pollution or health of children, to be a good and compelling reason for imposing the impugned neighbourhood restriction on the 1,400 other private unaided schools who are not governed by the DDA’s condition, then how does the state claim to serve or achieve the said public interest only in the case of 298 private unaided schools saddled with the DDA’s condition?”
A bench of Justice Manmohan also observed that “primary cause of nursery education chaos is lack of good quality public schools” and added that till “the quality of all public schools improves, disparity between demand and supply will remain”. The court will hear the case again on March 21.