The Delhi high court on Monday made it clear that its decision on a PIL, challenging government notifications giving powers to unaided private schools to formulate their own criteria, would also affect nursery class admissions for the academic session 2013-14.
"Our order (on the PIL) would also be applicable on nursery admission for ensuing academic session 2013-14," a bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice V K Jain said.
The court's observation came during the hearing of the PIL, filed by NGO Social Jurist, against two notifications, issued by the human resources development ministry and the Directorate of Education of Delhi government.
The PIL alleged that these two notifications have "given a totally free hand to all unaided recognised private schools to formulate their own nursery admission criteria based on categorisation of children..."
However, the categorisations of kids by schools in admission have specifically been barred by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, it said, adding some schools give preferences in admission on grounds such as religion, alumni and sibling.
"You (DoE) cannot dilute the provision of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act. You are giving preference to one child over another, which is against the Act, by allowing them (schools) to formulate their own admission criteria," the court said.
"We will have to test the notifications ... and how far such powers can be extended to schools (by the governments under the Act)... If you give liberty to the schools then the whole purpose of the Act would be lost," it said.
However, the counsel, appearing for an association of private unaided schools, said that schools be allowed to formulate reasonable admission criteria. The court would also hear the arguments on Tuesday on the PIL.
Earlier, the NGO's counsel Ashok Agarwal had said that he wanted the law to be settled on the issue and would not like the ongoing admission process for current academic session to be affected by the court order as all kids are alike and innocent.
"Whole ongoing nursery admission process would go if we decide to quash the notification issued on December 15, 2010 by the Directorate of Education (DoE) on behalf of Delhi government," the court had said.
The NGO alleged that the power given to schools to lay down admission criteria was "contrary to Section 13 of the Act which says that there would be no screening process of either parents or of kids and no child would be discriminated against. It also provided that admission would be taken by way of draw of lots and the neighbourhood would be only criteria."
Separate guidelines cannot be framed by schools, it said, adding that despite the law being "clear", the schools have been formulating their own guidelines and according preferences in admission processes on various discretionary grounds.
On November 23, 2010, the HRD ministry had issued guidelines under the RTE that had allowed the schools to frame their own admission criteria, the NGO alleged.
Later, DoE of Delhi government also issued the guidelines on similar lines, the PIL said.