To ensure that schools do not escape their responsibility of admitting 25 percent students belonging to weaker section of society,the Punjab and Haryana High Court Tuesday ordered that the concept of neighbourhood enshrined under the Right to Education (RTE) Act be defined.
The RTE Act,in Section 12,brings up the concept of neighbourhoods,but as per the court fails to define it.
Directions have been issued to Chandigarh,Punjab and Haryana to come up with a clear definition.
Laying down guidelines,the court ruled,…admission shall first be offered to eligible students belonging to EWS and disadvantaged group residing within 1 km of specific schools. In case,the vacancies remain unfilled,students residing within 3 kms of the schools shall be admitted. If there are still vacancies,then admission shall be offered to other students residing within 6 kms.
The order further reads,…Students residing beyond 6 kms shall be admitted only in case vacancies remain unfilled. The directions were passed by a division bench comprising Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain on a bunch of petitions concerning hike in education fees and related issues.
Holding that it becomes incumbent upon the authorities to frame the rules to define neighbourhood,the court referred to such rules framed by Delhi government,such as Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education,Rules 2010.
The Court held: …it is apparent that though there may be endeavour to fulfil mandatory requirements,the fact remains that RTE provisions have yet to be turned into reality. Even when some children belonging to EWS are given admission,many seats in these schools meant for EWS go unfilled.
Delhi government rules prescribe the limit of neighbourhood in respect of children in classes-I to V as within walking distance of 1 km and in respect of children in classes VI to VIII as within 3 kms.
If similar rules are made by Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh,children in neighbourhood of a particular school can always have access to schools for admission and the schools can also be compelled to admit those students,the order reads,adding: …still it may not be necessary to confine admission only to those children living in the neighbourhood in as much as it is the bounden duty of all the concerned to ensure that the aforesaid provision of the Act is implemented.