The Delhi High Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on a plea of the city's private schools challenging the government's notification on the criteria for nursery admissions in the capital. The schools said the new guidelines were "arbitrary". A division bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Rajiv Sahai End law reserved the order after hearing both the parties. The nursery admission process is now on hold after the government told the bench that "it would wait for the court's decision on the issue before commencing the admission process".
The admission process for nursery classes in the city's private schools which was to start Jan 15 had been deferred by two days after unaided private schools appealed the single judge order which refused to stay the government notification on the criteria for nursery admissions in the capital. A single judge Jan 10 denied any relief to private schools on a plea challenging the Dec 18 notification of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and claiming it was "absolutely illegal, arbitrary and without jurisdiction". According to the new guidelines, admissions would continue on the 100-point basis but children living within an eight-km radius would be included in the criteria of "neighbourhood", carrying 70 points. Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing schools, opposed this saying it was against the Ganguly committee recommendation.
"The Ganguly committee had said you cannot restrict people to one area. Giving 70 points out of 100 to neighbourhood is arbitrary," said the advocate while seeking quashing of the notification. The counsel told the court that the order of the Lt. Governor seriously compromises the autonomy of private schools and goes against the stand taken by the central government. "The central government said you must give this freedom to them (schools) as long as there is transparency and objectivity in the admission procedure," he said. "Any curtailment of that fundamental right can be made through a legislative enactment only," he added.
The schools also claimed the school managements were never consulted by the Lt. Governor, thus violating the "principle of natural justice". However, senior counsel Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the government, told the bench that as per the Ganguly committee report schools cannot have screening process for admitting three to six-year-old kids. He said: "We are not admitting engineer, medical or journalism students here." The senior counsel defended the LG's order against the remark of counsel appearing for schools that "the order was passed in haste". He said the decision was made after "careful consideration and in pursuant to earlier high court order". Ramachandran said: "The notification deserves a fair trial. If there are glitches, we are here to amend."
The bench also questioned why the 20 per cent management quota has been completely omitted. To this, the counsel said: "Management quota in the case of tiny tots had the potential of harnessing the most fertile ground of making money". As per the new notification, grandchildren of staff members will also be entitled to a five percent quota. This was earlier extended only to children. A quarter of the seats have to be reserved for the economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups.