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Delhi HC quashes gov't nursery admission guidelines, boon to private schools

The Delhi high court Friday quashed the Lt governor’s guidelines last year on nursery admissions in the national capital, saying it was a “violation of the fundamental rights of the school management”. The judgment was welcomed by various schools. [Download PDF]

Justice Manmohan quashed the guidelines issued by Lt Gov Najeeb Jung Dececember last year which mean neighborhood, sibling, and alumni criteria set by the notification will go, and unaided private schools can now set their own criteria as per the 2007 Ganguly committee guidelines.

The court said that the guidelines by the government will be violative of fundamental right of school management to maximum autonomy in day-to-day administration including the right to admit students.

“Government cannot impose a strait jacket formula of admission upon the schools under the guise of reasonable restriction and that too, without any authority of law,” it said.

Reacting to the judgment, Madhulika Sen, principal, Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar, said that private schools have got justice and they will now have autonomy.

“Finally we have got justice because it was very important for private schools to have autonomy. We have an open and transparent process and have been doing our job with honestly and int egrity,” Sen told IANS

“We would be focusing on sibling cases because it will make commuting easier for children. The most favourable thing for any parent would be to send all their children to one school. Parents should have the right to choose the school and I believe this judgment suits everyone,” she said.

Kiran Mehta, principal, Salwan Public School, Mayur Vihar, said that the school would be following the rules laid by the education department, “but we would be changing one or two rules that are n ot that feasible to follow”.

“We would be having a meeting to decide what we would like to change so that it benefits students and parents,” Mehta told IANS

On 18 December 2013, Jung issued the guidelines after which a number of petitions were filed against them. The guidelines outlined many criteria, including the neighbourhood factor, which sought that schools give preference to children living within a radius of eight km from the school.

This was given the maximum weightage of 70 points out of 100 in open category seats.Other criteria in the guidelines were: siblings studying in the same school (20 points), applications of girls (five points), and wards of school alumni (five points).

Quashing the guidelines, the court said that the power to decide the school of a child should lie with the parents and not with the government. It said that it nowhere stipulates that “children would have to take admission only in a neighbourhood school or that children cannot take admissions in schools situated beyond their neighbourhood”.

“School choice gives families freedom to choose any school that meets their needs regardless of its location. This court is of the opinion that by increasing parental choice and by granting schools the autonomy to admit students, the accountability of private schools can be ensured.”

“The neighbourhood concept was better taken care of by private unaided schools, in terms of the guidelines laid down in the Ganguly Committee Report as well as under the Admissions Order, 2007,” it added.

Agreeing with the order, Priyanka Bhatkoti, principal of Max Kids, Dwarka, said that distance is extremely important for schools as “we don’t want children to waste a lot of time in commuting and also we don’t want to waste our (schools’) energy in managing transportation”.

“We would like to encourage ‘neighbourhood school’ but we also understand that 12-15 km in Delhi is a common norm and there are many areas that don’t have a good school nearby. So, we will be keeping all these factors in mind,” Bhatkoti told IANS

In his 69-page order, Justice Manmohan said that the court was in favour of the “graded/slab” system followed earlier in all schools wherein the person living closest to the school was given the maximum marks.

“This ensured that children have the option to go to a neighbourhood school, but their choice was not restricted to a school situated in their locality. The power to choose a school has to primarily vest with the parents and not in the administration,” the court held.

It also held there is no material to show that private unaided schools were indulging in any malpractice or were misusing their right to admit students.

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