Nursery admissions: HC restores management quota

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New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) In a setback for the Arvind Kejriwal government, the Delhi High Court on Thursday restored the management quota for nursery admissions in private, unaided schools, as they are “entitled to full autonomy” in administration.

Justice Manmohan, in an interim order, stayed the Aam Aadmi Party government’s January 6 circular scrapping 62 criteria, including the management quota but accepted 11 criteria proposed by the private schools’ association, having said that some of the 62 criteria fixed by private schools for nursery admissions were “untenable”.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said they would appeal the verdict.

Upholding the autonomy of private unaided schools, the court said: “Promoters of a school who make investment at their own personal risk are entitled to full autonomy in administration including the right to admit students” and held that the government’s order infringed on their autonomy and students’ rights.

“The private unaided schools have maximum autonomy in day-to-day administration including the right to admit students,” it said but asked the AAP government to take action against erring private schools which were “demanding money” from parents to admit kids under the management quota.

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“Any alleged malpractice in utilisation of the management quota like sale of seats being actionable should be investigated and taken to its logical conclusion in accordance with law, but it cannot be a ground to abolish the quota itself. After all, vesting of discretion is not bad, but to misuse it, is illegal,” said the court.

Holding the management quota should remain, Justice Manmohan said: “This court finds that initially all private unaided schools being established by private means used to fill up hundred percent of their seats on their own. A balancing act was done by the Ganguly Committee and the government whereby discretion of private unaided schools was minimised, but not altogether abolished.”

The management quota had been recommended by expert Ganguly Committee formed by a division bench of Delhi High Court and accepted, approved and implemented by the Delhi government in its order of 2007, noted the court.

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The January 6 order was passed “without any authority under law” or without approval of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, and was in direct conflict with the 2007 order issued by the lt. governor giving freedom to private unaided recognised schools to frame their own guidelines for nursery admissions, it added.

“Consequently, at this prima facie stage, the deletion of management quota by way of an office order is impermissible in law,” said the order.

The Action Committee of Unaided Recognised Private Schools and Forum for Promotion of Quality Education had moved the court saying the decision was “absolutely without jurisdiction” and should be quashed as it completely took away their autonomy, but the Delhi government had maintained that private unaided schools do not have “absolute autonomy”.

The government had also said that by way of the January 6 notification, it did not prescribe any criteria, but only asked the private schools to adopt criteria which were “fair, just and reasonable”.

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Sisodia, who holds the education portfolio too, had appeared before the court and submitted in a sealed cover a list of documents and evidence given by parents who alleged that some private schools asked for money for admitting students. The court, however, asked him to take action against these schools.

In his reaction, Sisodia, in a tweet, said: “It is duty of the government to provide better education to the children in Delhi. We will appeal against the court’s order.”

Chief Minister Kejriwal on January 6 said the decision to scrap the management quota was taken to bring in more transparency in the admission process, while the existing provision of 25 percent seats for students from poor families would remain in place. Currently, the schools keep 20 percent or even more seats under the management quota, while 25 percent seats are reserved for students from economically weaker sections. The remaining are open for the general category.

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