February 7, 2017 7:02:21 pm
“It is a race against time,” was how the Delhi High Court today observed while referring to the “tight schedule” before which it has to decide on the pleas challenging the Delhi government’s notifications on neighbourhood criteria for nursery admission.
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Manhoman said, “It is a race against time. We are running in a very tight schedule before which this matter has to be decided.” The court’s observations assume significance as the process for applying for nursery admission in schools here would end on February 14.
The high court is hearing a batch of petitions filed by the parents and two school groups challenging the Delhi government’s December 19, 2016 and January 7 notifications that made 298 private schools, built on Delhi Development Authority land, to accept nursery admission forms based only on the neighbourhood or distance criteria.
During the hearing, the court asked the counsel appearing for one of the school bodies, “Their (government’s) argument is that do not entertain the challenge regarding the land allotment letter. Can you bifurcate in the sense that if challenge to the allotment letter is not undertaken by the court then can you challenge the criteria independently of the allotment.”
Responding to this, the counsel said that the issue can be bifurcated as because of the consequence of these new circulars, a new ground of discrimination between two classes of students has cropped up.
The school body alleged that the Delhi government has “discriminated” among schools as the neighbourhood criteria has been applied against only 298 schools while it has not been made mandatory for the other 1,400 schools.
“If the issue of children going to schools in around 1,400 schools is not a matter of concern for the government then why it is a concern for students of 298 schools. Why only 298 schools have been subjected to this kind of treatment? It is nothing but arbitrariness and discrimination,” the lawyer said.
He also argued that interest of these 298 schools has to be safeguarded and being the government, it should not discriminate between students. He also contended that there is no definition of neighbourhood criteria in the letter alloting land to the schools.
The high court had yesterday asked the Centre to explain its stand with regard to the neighbourhood criteria to admit
students in nursery in private schools in the national capital and other parts of the country.
It had also directed the Delhi government to show it the copy of allotment letters to schools on the basis of which neighbourhood criteria was imposed.
The two school groups — Action Committee of Unaided Recognised Private Schools and Forum for Promotion of Quality Education — and parents have contended that these circulars are bad in law and have curtailed their fundamental rights.
The court, however, by way of an interim order had allowed the parents to fill up the application forms for the various schools based on the criteria set by them as well as the Delhi government.
Later, it had also stayed the government’s notification asking private minority unaided schools to accept nursery admission forms using neighbourhood criteria.
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