Neighbourhood criteria for nursery admission in private schools here which are built on DDA land is “not something new” and the educational institutions are “misusing” their autonomy by adopting their own point system, the Department of Education (DoE) on Thursday told the Delhi High Court. The DoE made the contention before Justice Manmohan while defending the Delhi government’s notifications regarding nursery admission on neighbourhood criteria, which say that students residing within one km of the school will be preferred and if seats are not filled, preference will be given to the students residing within 1-3 kms of the school.
“Students residing beyond 6 kms shall be admitted only in case vacancies remain unfilled even after considering all the students within 6 km area,” the guidelines say. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for the DoE, told the court that private schools were adopting their own point system for granting admission in nursery and it includes points on distance criteria as well.
“The petitioners (two private school groups), by making these kinds of point system, are misusing their autonomy. It is arbitrary… If we (DoE) are including neighbourhood criteria, what is the harm to them? They are also having their own point criteria,” he said and gave a list of private schools which were adopting point system.
“Neighbourhood criteria is not something which is new,” the ASG argued and said the issue which the court would have to decide is whether the definition of neighbourhood given by the government is arbitrary or not. The court is hearing pleas 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 the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) land, to accept nursery admission forms based only on the neighbourhood or distance criteria.
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 earlier allowed the parents to fill up application forms for various schools based on the criteria set by them as well as the Delhi government.
Later, the court had also stayed the government’s notification asking the private minority unaided schools to accept nursery admission forms using neighbourhood criteria. The government had argued that private unaided schools built on public land cannot run as “profit-making centres” and these should rather provide education as “welfare and charitable” measures.