New Delhi: The point system of nursery admissions devised by the Lieutenant-Governor (LG) for private unaided schools was today quashed by the Delhi High Court which said the government’s decision was “neither procedurally proper nor rational”.
Justice Manmohan said the private unaided schools have the fundamental right to “maximum autonomy in day-to-day administration, including right to admit students”.
The court also said that “children should have the option to go to a neighbourhood school, but their choice cannot be restricted to a school in their locality”.
“This court is unable to appreciate that a student’s educational fate can be relegated to his position on a map,” Justice Manmohan said in his 69-page judgement.
The court was also of the opinion that the “neighbourhood concept was better taken of by private unaided schools both in terms of guidelines laid down in the Ganguly Committee report as well as under the earlier admission order of 2007…”.
“Consequently, the impugned office orders being violative of the fundamental rights of the school management to maximum autonomy in day-to-day administration, including right to admit students as well as the fundamental right of children through their parents to choose a school… are quashed quo private unaided schools with regard to 75 per cent general category nursery seats”.
The court passed the judgement while disposing of two petitions by a committee and a forum representing private schools which had challenged the LG’s December 18 and December 27 notifications of last year by which the point system was introduced.
Under the earlier system, out of a total 100 points, 70 were given if the child lives in the neighbourhood of the school, additional 20 were given if a sibling is studying there, five points more if either parent is an alumni and another five points if it is an inter-state transfer case.
Draw of lots were held at each point level. Thereafter, the government had on February 27 issued an order abolishing the five points that were being awarded in inter-state transfer cases.
The court, while quashing the point system, also observed that “If the power of curtailing the choice is conferred upon the state, it may in future stipulate that residents of a locality would be entitled for medical treatment only in hospitals situated in their locality”.
While holding that accountability of schools can be ensured by giving them administrative autonomy, the court also went on to say that in the present case there was no material on record to show that the private unaided schools indulged in any malpractices or were misusing their right to admit students under the earlier 2007 notification.
It also said that the primary cause of nursery admission chaos is the lack of adequate number of good quality public schools.
“Till quality of all public schools is improved, disparity between demand and supply will remain. This court is of the view that no office order, policy, notification or formula can resolve this disparity,” the judge said.
The court also observed that the practice of administering through circulars, notifications and office orders “creates uncertainty”.
While quashing the two office orders under challenge, the court said the power to choose a school has to primarily vest with the parents and not in the administration (government).
“In fact, the impugned office orders fail to consider the vitality as well as quality of the school and the specific needs of the individual families and students.
“School choice gives families freedom to choose any school that meets their needs regardless of its location,” the court said.
It also was 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.”