The Centre today told the Delhi High Court that the RTE Act does not apply to nursery or pre-school and that it was up to the state governments to regulate nursery admissions.
The High Court is expected to pass its order on Monday.
The Centre’s delay in making its stand clear to the High Court on the scope of the RTE Act had led the High Court to call a hearing yesterday. The judgment had been reserved on 30 January after a marathon hearing of arguments.
In yesterday's hearing, the High Court had asked the government to clarify its stand on whether the RTE Act applied to nursery school and, if it didn’t, what procedure was to be followed for nursery admissions.
The High Court is hearing a writ petition filed by NGO Social Jurist that has challenged notifications issued by the Centre and the Delhi Government that allow private unaided schools to come up with their own criteria for nursery admissions.
The result (where schools allot points to categories such as sibling and alumni and admit students based on the points they earn) the petition states is a violation of the RTE Act which prohibits any sort of screening procedure that discriminates between children.
However, the RTE Act’s definition of a child as being 6 to 14 years has raised the question of the scope of the Act and its applicability to nursery where children are below 6 years. (Read report here.)
Given that admissions in Delhi are made at nursery, Ashok Agarwal, advocate representing Social Jurist, makes the case that if “pre-primary classes are not covered by the provisions of the RTE Act, it would lead to an anomalous situation where children are admitted in pre-primary classes by subjecting them to a screening procedure and thereafter promoting them to higher classes.
A six-year old child so promoted to Class I would have already been screened at the pre-primary level and, therefore, the prohibition contained in Section 13 of the Act against screening would completely lose its meaning.”