New Delhi, September 19: The Delhi High Court Thursday said public schools are "under obligation" to provide free school books and uniforms to the poor and disadvantaged children. A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul told public schools association that those schools allotted government land on concessional rates have to admit 25 percent of the students from the economic weaker section (EWS) and disadvantaged groups (DG).
It also noted that under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, schools have to provide free books and uniforms to these children from these categories. "Your (schools) obligation is to provide free text books, uniforms. While getting land on concessional rate, you were bound to provide free education to 25 percent EWS and DG children, and under the RTE Act you you (schools) you have to provide free books and uniforms," the court told schools.
The bench's remark came after public schools objected to giving free books and uniforms to poor children. It also said that if after getting land on concessional rates for school, such schools are not willing to provide free books and uniform, then they "must pay market value of the land". "Pay the market value of land if you don't want to bear the responsibility," said the court.
During the hearing, counsel appearing for schools association argued that they have not been providing books and uniforms to any of their students and parents have to buy the material from the market themselves. Delhi government counsel Zubeda Begum however said that the government reimburse the amount to schools. "Rs.1,290 per month are being reimbursed to schools for free books and uniforms," she said.
The public schools association, allotted government land on concessional rates, said that they have not been provided this sum as reimbursement. To this, the court quipped: "If you get Rs.1,290 per month, everything will be sorted out!" It said it will pass order on the issue Oct 9. The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Khagesh Jha demanding proper implementation of the provisions of the RTE Act to provide free books and uniforms to children from the EWS and disadvantaged group categories in private unaided schools.