The Central government has told the Delhi High Court today that the Right to Education (RTE) Act, except for the provision that reserves 25 per cent to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), does not apply to nursery or pre-school.
In its much delayed clarification to the Court, the Centre told the High Court that as far as nursery admissions are concerned, the state government may have their own policies governing it.
Referring to the provision in the RTE Act that prohibits capitation fee and screening procedure. the court said, “You are saying that Section 13 would not apply to children below six years of age thereby there is no bar on screening procedure under this Act as far children below six are concerned.”
The 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 formulate their own criteria for nursery admissions. The resulting admission procedure (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 blatant violation of the RTE Act, which prohibits any sort of screening procedure that discriminates between children. (Read report here)
Responding to the concerns expressed by the counsel for the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) over the Centre’s stand that seeks to take pre-school out of the RTE framework, the court said: “We only wanted to know their stand, we have not completely accepted their stand.”
On the national implications of the court’s order, the counsel for the DCPCR told the court, “I have also looked at the notification of the Orissa government. It is almost on the same terms as that of the Delhi Government...Throughout the country states have followed suit, following the Government of India guidelines. And whatever the court will say, it will apply, ipso facto, for the rest of the country.”
Bringing up Article 21 (a) of the Constitution (the Fundamental Right to Education), the court said, “We will have to deal with the case with reference to Article 21 (a). That is basis on which the Act was made.”
Having heard all parties, the Court said, “We wanted to know the stand of the government. Let us now apply our mind. We also know the system prevails in Delhi and if we are going to hold that this Act is not applicable to nursery, we also know the impact of such a judgment. But we will have to interpret the law in terms of Article 21 (a).”
The court is likely to pass its order on Monday.
(In an earlier version of this article, the counsel representing Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) was erroneously referred to as representing National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). The correction has been made. We apologise for the error)