New Delhi: The admission process for nursery classes in the city`s private schools which was to start Jan 15, was Monday deferred by two days after some schools moved the Delhi High Court saying the new guidelines were "arbitrary".
Unaided private schools appealed the single judge order which refused to stay the government notification on the criteria for nursery admissions in the capital.
A division bench of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Jayant Nath accepted the assurance given by the Delhi government that it will defer the admission process by two days.
During the hearing, the counsel for the schools asked the court to pass an interim order to stay the notification as the admission process was to begin Jan 15.
The court, however, refrained from passing any order.
It said that as an assurance was given by the Delhi government counsel to defer the admission process by two days, a proper bench will decide the case Jan 15 and pass the appropriate order.
"We (will) just defer it by two days. Let the matter be taken up on Jan 15 by a proper bench which will decide the later course," the court said.
A single judge Jan 10 had denied any relief to private schools on a plea challenging the Dec 18 notification of Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and claiming it was "absolutely illegal, arbitrary and without jurisdiction".
According to the new guidelines, admissions will continue on the 100-point basis. But children living within an eight-km radius will be included in the criteria of "neighbourhood", carrying 70 points.
Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul opposed the government`s step of allotting 70 points to neighbourhood children, saying it was against the Ganguly committee recommendation.
"The Ganguly committee had said that you cannot restrict people to one area. Giving 70 points out of 100 to neighbourhood is arbitrary," said the advocate representing schools while seeking quashing of the notification.
The counsel told the court that the order of the Lt. Governor seriously compromises the autonomy of private schools and goes against the stand taken by the central government.
"The central government said you must give this freedom to them (schools) as long as there is transparency and objectivity in the admission procedure," the counsel said.
"Any curtailment of that fundamental right can be made through a legislative enactment only," he said.
The plea alleged that the guidelines violated the principle of autonomy and that recognised unaided private schools had powers given by the central government to frame their own admission criteria for 75 percent of the seats.
The schools also claimed that the school management were never consulted by the Lt. Governor, thus violating the "principle of natural justice".
As per the new notification, grandchildren of staff members will also be entitled to a five percent quota. This was earlier extended only to children.
A quarter of the seats have to be reserved for the economically weaker sections and disadvantaged groups.
Children who have a sibling studying in the same school will get 20 points. Girls will get five points.
Meanwhile, the court also stayed the operation of certain provisions of the Delhi government`s nursery admission guidelines concerning minority schools and said that these institutions were free to devise their own procedures and should be treated differently.
Justice Manmohan referred to the Supreme Court verdict and the rights available to minority-run institutions under the Constitution and said: "Treat them differently and the right to administer a minority school also contains the right to devise a procedure for admission so long they (procedures) are fair and transparent."
The court granted interim relief to the Society of Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Delhi and the Forum of Minority Schools, which represented nearly 50 institutions.
It said that keeping in view the decisions of the Supreme Court, such schools are "entitled to admit students according to their own procedures so long as they are transparent and fair and accordingly the impugned notification is stayed".
The court also said "the Constitution framers were aware of all this" and these directions are contrary to the constitutional scheme and impinged upon the freedom of minority schools.
The minority schools had challenged certain parts of the nursery admission guidelines 2014-15 that asked them to reserve five percent seats for girl students in co-ed schools.
The guidelines also said seats, which will remain vacant after admitting minority students, be treated as open seats and admission to these seats be done on the basis of the criteria fixed by Delhi government.