With two separate pleas before two benches of the Delhi High Court, a clash between preservation of forest land and rights of students to proper education is set to come up for consideration.
In October last year, the HC had pulled up the government after a writ petition was filed by a parent that the Government Co-Ed Senior Secondary School, Bhati Mines, New Delhi, was operating out of 28 pre-fabricated classrooms with tin roofs.
The plea, by local resident Bazi Ram through advocate Ashok Aggarwal, had said due to the paucity of space, classes were held in “shifts” in the school, which caters to over 2,000 students.
“The above facts show that the government is not complying with the basic requirements and guidelines framed by it for various schools. It is noted that in several cases, the government takes action against private schools for not complying with basic requirements of infrastructure and staff. Government, for its own schools, is not maintaining that,” the court had noted in its order.
On Tuesday, the Delhi government told the court that the construction of a permanent structure for the school “cannot be carried out without permission of the Forest Department” since the area lies within the notified forest land around Asola-Bhati wildlife sanctuary.
The bench of Justice V K Rao was also informed that the Director of Education had written letters to the Secretary, Environment and Forests, in August 2014 and again in October 2016, requesting that the land required for the school be “de-notified”.
Advocate Anupam Shrivastava also told the court that the chief secretary had called a meeting in November to discuss the issue.
“What steps has your chief secretary taken after holding the meeting?” asked the bench. The court has now asked the chief secretary to send a “reminder letter” to the Forest Department within two weeks, and directed the Secretary, Forests to be “personally present” in the court on the next date of hearing on March 15 if he fails to respond to the reminder letter.
A Division bench of the High Court, which is hearing a PIL on the issue of air pollution in the city, had last year directed the SDMC and Delhi government to ensure that encroachments into the protected forest area around Asola-Bhati are removed.