The Delhi High Court on Friday stayed city government’s controversial nursery admission notification that made it mandatory for private unaided minority schools to admit students in the unreserved category on the basis of neighbourhood criteria.
The order will give relief to around 15 minority schools in the capital that were set up on public land.
Justice Manmohan noted that minority schools, which have been given more autonomy on how they run and function including admit students, cannot be told to follow the government’s nursery circular.
The judge said the government cannot interfere with the functioning of minority schools, except on the ground of maladministration.
On January 7, the government brought out a nursery admission circular that made private schools – built on Delhi Development Authority land – accept admission forms based only on the neighbourhood or distance criteria.
The notification gave priority to those living within a radius of one kilometre of a school. In case seats remain vacant, those living within a three -kilometre radius will get a chance.
The circular told unaided minority schools to treat “unreserved seats” as “Open/General seats” in which admission will be conducted on the basis of the neighbourhood criteria.
Advocate Romy Chacko, representing three private unaided minority schools, argued that the religious minorities have been conferred the “fundamental right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice under Article 30 of the Constitution”.
Chacko said minority institutions have an “absolute right” to adopt their own procedure for admission of both minority and non-minority students.
Mount Carmel School, Ryan International School and Somerville School had moved the court contending that the circular infringed on their rights to admit students.
The cases filed by other private unaided schools over applicability of the notification on 298 private schools are still being heard by the court.
During the hearing, the court expressed displeasure at the government for coming out with notification at the “eleventh hour”.
“There is nothing on record to show why the notification was issued in the eleventh hour and not in advance.... All these create anxiety to parents whose wards are to be admitted in the current academic year,” said the judge.
The court told the education department of the government to form an educational policy for nursery admission so that notification in future can be issued at least six months in advance.
It remarked that most the top schools in the capital are located at such areas where “all the seats will be cornered by privileged class – bureaucrats and us (judges)”.
“At the ground level, the situation is people don’t want their kids to go to government schools. They are pathetic, where teachers do not even come,” Justice Manmohan said and asked why Delhi government was not raising the standard of its school, and instead seeking to take over the autonomy of private schools.