Nursery admissions: Schools cannot be ‘teaching shops’, says HC

New Delhi: While the Delhi High Court in its much anticipated judgment has allowed category-based admissions to nursery to continue, it has observed that the collection of capitation fee by private unaided schools is not permissible.

Accepting the Centre’s stand that nursery is not covered by the Right to Education (RTE) Act, the High Court has held, “there is no escape from the conclusion that as far as the private unaided schools…are concerned, the provisions of the Act, except the admission to the extent of 25 per cent of the strength of the class, to the children belonging to the weaker sections and disadvantaged group,  do not apply to the admissions made to the pre-elementary (preschool and pre-primary) classes of such schools.”

Thus private unaided schools will continue to have the autonomy to admit children based on categories such as alumni and sibling in nursery.

However, the court in its judgment has observed that, “During the course of arguments, we were informed that charging capitation fee is prohibited not only in Right to Education Act, 2009, but also in Delhi School Education Act and the rules framed thereunder.  Therefore, it cannot be said that if the RTE Act does not apply to the 75 per cent of the admissions made by private unaided schools to pre-elementary classes, they can charge capitation fee for such admissions.”



Making a second reference to the commercialization of education, the High Court observed that “It is common knowledge that though the there is obligation on the State to provide free and compulsory education to children and the corresponding responsibility of the institution to afford the same, educational institution cannot be allowed to run as ‘Teaching Shops’ as the same would be detrimental to equal opportunity to children. This reality must not be ignored by the State while considering the observations made in this judgment”

In conclusion, the court observed, “Though we have held that Right to Education Act is not applicable to nursery schools, in our opinion there cannot be any difference in yardstick to be adopted for education to children up to the age of 14 years irrespective of the fact that it applies to only elementary education.  It is the right time for the Government to consider the applicability of Right to Education Act to the nursery classes as well, as in many of the States admissions are made right from the nursery classes and the children so admitted are automatically allowed to continue from Class-I.”

The High Court passed its judgment on a petition by NGO Social Jurist which had challenged the notifications by the Centre and the Delhi Government issued in 2010 that allowed private unaided schools to formulate their own criteria for nursery admissions. The petition had argued that the resulting admission process adopted by private unaided schools – the category-based admission - amounts to discrimination between children and is a violation of the RTE Act.

Reacting to the judgment, Ashok Agarwal, representing NGO Social Jurist said, “I have no doubt that all children from 0-14 are covered under the Right to Education Act. This part of the judgment I don’t agree with. We will move to the Supreme Court. Perhaps, by first week of March.”

The association of private unaided schools had strongly argued against the petition in court. R C Jain, president of the Delhi State Public Schools’ Management Association, welcoming the judgment said, “The judgment has finally ended the uncertainty among parents. More than schools, this is a relief for parents. Four lakh applications are competing for nursery seats. And those who don’t get admissions are bound to be upset. And they tend to blame the schools.”

In a frank admission of the practice of management quotas by the schools, Jain said, “Doesn’t the owner of the school, who has invested money in the school, have the right to give a seat to child of his choice? Doesn’t the government give its employees special benefits? If I don’t oblige the child whose father is in the electricity department, my power supply is shut down. If I don’t oblige a police officer’s son, my school bus gets impounded. I get calls from politicians, how am I to deny them? There is a segment of society that is linked to the school. The schools oblige them. It is not a question of selling.”

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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2013 17:29:35 IST

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