New Delhi, Jan 8 :
In a boost to unaided private schools, the Delhi High Court Wednesday stayed a state government order reserving 20 percent seats in St. Columba’s School for students belonging to economically weaker sections, saying it was done without proper consideration.
The court also issued notice to the Delhi government and sought its response by March 14.
St. Columba’s, one of the capital’s leading schools, moved the high court challenging the Dec 18 and Dec 30 notifications of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, saying the Supreme Court had excluded minority schools from the ambit of the Right to Education Act.
Jung is himself an alumnus of St. Columba’s.
Delhi government counsel Zubeda Begum told the court that in 1966 land was given to the school on concessional basis so that they kept 20 percent of their seats for the economically weaker sections (EWS).
“The land to the petitioner school was given on concessional rate because of sponsorship of the Directorate of Education, the school is obliged to admit students belonging to EWS category,” the lawyer said.
However, the factum of grant of land at concessional rate was denied by the school’s advocate Romy Chacko, saying that free education applies only to schools which have given an undertaking to provide free education in the terms and conditions stipulated in the lease deed.
“The lease deed executed by the petitioner school does not stipulate any condition to provide free education to anyone,” the lawyer added.
Taking into note the submissions of both the counsel, the court said that only those private unaided minority schools “who are obliged under the lease deed to admit a certain percentage of students belonging to EWS category shall be bound by the impugned notification and not the petitioner school whose lease deed does not contain such explicit term”.
The apex court held April 12, 2012 that the Act would not apply to unaided minority schools and imposing a quota for children from poor families on such schools violated Article 30 of the Constitution.
Chacko told the court that as per Supreme Court order “the right to admit students is an essential facet of petitioner’s (school) right to administer educational institution of their choice under Article 30 of the Constitution and the state cannot interfere with the same”.
On Dec 18 and 30, Jung ordered all schools in Delhi, including minority schools, which got land from the government, to also admit 20 percent children from the weaker sections in the neighbourhood.
The association of unaided private schools has also moved the high court challenging the Delhi government notification. It has called the order “absolutely illegal, arbitrary and without jurisdiction”.