Delhi government on Wednesday told the high court that the nursery admission will begin only after an order is passed on the petition of certain unaided private schools challenging the new admission guidelines and terming it as "nationalising the education system".
A bench of chief justice NV Ramana and justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw was told by the counsel for Delhi government that nursery admissions would not begin till the court passes an order on the petition of Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools.
During over three-hour arguments, the government, however, contended nursery admission guidelines issued by the Lieutenant Governor giving 70 marks to neighbourhood kids and abolishing 20% management quota is "against elitism and is a carefully considered decision passed after a reasonable gap of seven years and deserves to be given a fair chance."
Senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, appearing for the action committee, said "overnight, the government has restricted the criterion which was in place for seven years, it allotted marks to various criterion. What is left to the school? What are we running the schools for? The government has restricted everything." "The new guidelines amount to nationalisation of private unaided schools. We have done service to the nation by opening schools, giving good education when government failed in it," he submitted.
The argument made the bench to observe, "If you (Delhi government) take a practical view, the main sectors are education, transportation and health. In all the three, the government has failed.
"You have to accept the reality. See the failure of the state", he added.
Meanwhile, the court of Justice Manmohan granted interim relief to Mount Carmel and Montfort School by staying the operation of certain provisions of nursery admission guidelines concerning minority schools saying they should be treated "differently".
The Action Commiittee also objected to government abolishing the management quota and said "the state has created an image as if the management quota is some kind of an evil. What is wrong in giving weightage to kids of those who have toiled to start and run the school"? The government, on the other hand, said "20 per cent management quota was only an opening for profiteering and, therefore, has been done away with." "We are dealing with children less than six years of age. We are not dealing with engineering or medical students. We haven't changed the syllabus or guidelines for appointment of teachers. To that extent, the private schools have autonomy," the government's counsel said.
"We are dealing with the most vulnerable section of children. The neighbourhood criterion has been set to save them from travelling long distances," the counsel added.
During the hearing, the bench also sought to know what would be the loss caused to the schools due to the new guidelines.
To this, the petitioner said "we will lose the fundamental right to run an educational institution, which has also been recognised by the Supreme Court. The quality of students who are admitted to our schools affect us." On the bench's remark that if the schools were concerned about the management quota, Kaul said "it is not our case and even if we are concerned about management quota, it is nothing to be apologetic about." The private unaided schools had moved the division bench of the HC against the order of its single judge who had refused to grant them interim relief or stay the notification.
The admission process for nursery classes was to started from January 15 and the last date for submitting applications was January 31.
Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung had on December 18 issued new guidelines for nursery admission for the session 2014-15 and took various steps such as scrapping of 20% management quota.
The neighborhood criteria, which seeks schools to give preference to children living within a radius of 6 kilometer from school, has been given maximum weightage with 70 points out of 100 in open category seats. Later, the LG enhanced the criteria to eight kilometre.
Besides these, the applicants who have sibling studying in the same school will get 20 points and five points will be added by default in the application of girls and wards of school alumni.
The guidelines also seek the minority schools to have 25 per cent seats reserved, like other schools, for economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups of society.
The private schools are contending even the Ganguly Committee, on the basis of which the government had brought nursery admission guidelines in 2007, said that the neighbourhood criterion should not be stretched too far.