The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the AAP government whether it had done geographical mapping of the number of schools in a given area before directing private schools to admit kids in nursery on the basis of neighbourhood criteria. “Did you (Delhi government’s education department) conduct a survey mapping of the number of schools in a locality before coming out with this (neighbourhood norm) order,” Justice Manmohan asked.
It said that before issuing such an order they should have first done geographical mapping, including the demand by the parents or kids in that particular locality.
“By this (neighbourhood) formula, you have entirely taken away the right of private schools here,” the court said, noting that “unless you do not give them autonomy to frame their own rules, they will not come up with more investment”.
The court said said instead of taking away the autonomy of the private schools, public schools should be improved so that the parents in future only opt for these. The court’s oral observations came during hearing of pleas challenging the AAP government’s recent order to private unaided schools to admit children in nursery using the neighbourhood norm.
Defending the government’s decision, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Directorate of Education (DoE), said they are taking initiatives to improve their schools and even the condition imposed on the private unaided schools are part of it, so they be allowed to go ahead with it (neighbourhood norm).
To this, the court said it is allowing them to work but they should do it without stepping into anyone’s domain. The parents, whose kids are to be admitted in nursery this year, had submitted before the court that the AAP government’s order is bad in law and has curtailed their fundamental rights.
The parents, the Action Committee of Unaided Recognised Private Schools and the Forum for Promotion of Quality Education, have moved the court against the Delhi government’s recent order on the ground that the neighbourhood restriction was “not reasonable”. The two circulars of December 19, 2016 and January 7, 2017 have enforced the allotment clause and have thereby restricted admission in schools on DDA land in their locality.
The court, however, by way of an interim order had allowed the parents to fill up the application forms for the various schools based on the criteria set by them as well as the Delhi government.
Later, it had also stayed the government’s notification asking private minority unaided schools to accept nursery admission forms using neighbourhood criteria. About 298 private unaided schools on DDA land were affected by the nursery admission guidelines which state that such institutes “shall not refuse admission to the residents of the locality”.
Defining what neighbourhood would mean, the guidelines say that students residing within one km of the school will be preferred and if seats are not filled, preference will be given to students residing within 1-3 kms of the school.
“Students residing beyond 6 kms shall be admitted only in case vacancies remain unfilled even after considering all the students within 6 km area,” as per the guidelines.