The UT education department has decided to challenge the status of St Kabir Public School, Sector 26, Chandigarh, as a minority school even though the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutes (NCMEI) had recognised the same.
The development comes on the heels of the estate office directing DPI (schools) to conduct inspection in 27 schools on October 15 that were issued show-cause notice to verify if they were enrolling students from the economically weaker section (EWS).
The Supreme Court in 2014 had ruled that unaided minority schools cannot be mandated under the Right to Education (RTE) to reserve 25% seats for EWS students.
St Kabir’s minority status is being challenged on the basis of its new MOA (memorandum of agreement), which department officials are calling ‘invalid’. Claiming that the education department’s objections had not been taken into consideration earlier, a senior department official confirmed that the administration was engaging a lawyer to file a fresh writ petition. Deputy director, school education, Chanchal Singh stated that the department was in the process of finalising things on this front as it had concerns over the school’s new ‘invalid’ MOA.
It is yet to be confirmed whether St Kabir was prioritising students from a particular community while giving admissions. As per Rule 20 of the Chandigarh Lease Hold of Sites and Building Rule 1973, the school was allotted land for the welfare of the general public. Commenting on this issue, assistant estate officer cum SDM (central) Prince Dhawan had earlier raised questions over why the school did not bring up its ‘minority’ status when it was being allotted land. Throwing light on the mismatch of statements by the school authorities, the education department has taken note of this ‘change of land use’ as ‘misuse of land’.
On the other hand, Gurpreet Bakshi, chairman, St Kabir Public School, said, “If the administration wishes to challenge our minority status that we have been given since our inception in 1994, they can do so. The department had challenged it even before the national minority commission and despite that we managed to get the status on the basis of being a member of Sikh community.”
More schools under scanner
Sources in the education department revealed that the department would be challenging the minority status of a few other schools including Mount Carmel School, Sector 47; New Public School, Sector 18; Ajit Karam Singh International Public School, Sector 41 and 45, Saupin’s School, Sector 32.
This year, around 700 seats were reserved under the RTE Act in private unaided schools. Sources stated that with many schools being granted minority status, the number of seats under the RTE Act had gone down in large numbers. At present, a total of 18 schools have received minority status, and the case of three more schools is under consideration including Vivek High School, Sector 38; St Stephen’s, Sector 45 and Sri Guru Harkrishan Senior Secondary Public School, Sector 40. Out of these, nearly seven schools sought minority status after the directions were issued that minority schools are not bound to admit 25% students from economically weaker section under the RTE Act.
What is minority status
A minority educational institution means an institution established and administered by the minorities under clause (1) of Article 30 of the Constitution and so declared by an Act of Parliament or declared as a minority educational institution under the National Commission for Minority Educational Institution Act-2004.
For getting minority status for an educational institute on the basis of religion, the following must be ensured
•Educational institute must be established by a member or members of the religious minority of the community
•Must be established for benefit of the minority community
•Should be administered by the minority community