Children should have the option to go to a neighbourhood school but their choice cannot be restricted to a school situated in their locality, the Delhi high court said on Tuesday putting a stay on the city government’s controversial nursery admission notification.
On January 7, when the nursery admission process had already kicked in the Capital, the government came with a notification that restricted 298 private unaided schools, built on public land, to admit student using the neighbourhood criteria.
“This court is unable to appreciate that a student’s educational fate can be relegated to his position on a map,” justice Manmohan remarked.
The judge was of the view that restricting admissions to immediate neighbourhood of the school may result in restricting the growth and vision of the students.
“If students from all faiths, communities and different parts of Delhi are admitted in a school, it would promote diversity, openness, liberalism and greater understanding of the city and its culture,” the court said.
Justice Manmohan questioned the logic behind adopting neighbourhood criteria in the 298 private unaided schools for the 75% open or general category seats.
The concept of neighbourhood envisaged in Right to Education Act has its genesis in the problem of dropouts in children from economically weaker section or disadvantageous group category, if they are made to travel long distance for schooling.
No such concept of dropouts is applicable to general category fee-paying students in private unaided schools, the court noted.
The court said that the government through its January notification tried to implement reservation for a section of society that is neither socially nor economically or educationally backward or scheduled castes or scheduled tribes or minorities, which is “unconstitutional”.
Moreover, there is potential of abuse of the definition of ‘neighbourhood’ as many rich parents would either shift to areas which are close to the school that they want their children to study or would get fake rent receipts or documents from owners or relatives and friends to show that they reside in such areas.
“There is no mechanism stipulated in the city government’s notification to curb or examine the allegation of abuse,” the court remarked adding that the nursery admission chaos is due to the lack of adequate good quality public schools and uneven distribution of good private unaided schools in Delhi.
“Till the quality of all public schools improves, the disparity between demand and supply will remain,” the judge noted.