New Delhi: Unaided private schools on Tuesday opposed before the Delhi High Court the new nursery admission guidelines issued by the Lt Governor saying they take away their autonomy and right to choose students on the basis of reasonable criteria.
The counsel for Action Committee of Unaided Recognized Private Schools referred to an apex court judgement and told Justice Manmohan that the autonomy of such institutions should not be "curtailed" by the government if the selection criteria is "fair and equitable".
"There has to be some legal, constitutional and valid reasons for tinkering with the existing nursery admission guidelines which were being followed for last seven years," senior advocate NK Kaul, appearing for private schools, said.
The court was hearing two petitions filed by Action Committee of Unaided Recognized Private Schools and Forum for Promotion of Quality Education for All, which represent most of the private schools here.
They have challenged new nursery admission guidelines issued by the Lt Governor on December 18 by which various decisions including scrapping of 20 per cent management quota were taken.
The private schools were denied interim relief of stay of operation of the guidelines by the single judge bench and later approached the larger bench of the high court and the Supreme Court which also did not grant any relief and in fact, directed early disposal of their pleas.
"Overnight, the government has restricted the criterion which was in place for seven years, it allotted marks to various criterion. What is left to the school? What are we running the schools for? The government has restricted everything.
"The new guidelines amount to nationalisation of private unaided schools. We have done service to the nation by opening schools, giving good education when government failed in it," he said.
The hearing on the pleas remained inconclusive and would resume tomorrow.
Earlier, Padmini Singla, Director of Directorate of Education, filed the affidavit on behalf of Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and justified the government notifications, issued on December 18 and December 27, last year, on nursery admission.
Responding to pleas of private schools, Lt Governor, in
the affidavit, said, "They (schools) seek to gain contrary to the constitutional provisions, statutory provisions, rules, norms, an undue privilege in the garb of autonomy in the matter of right to admit students of their own choice."
"Commercialization of education is prohibited; educational institutes cannot be allowed to run as `Teaching Shops` as the same would be detrimental to equal opportunity to children," the affidavit said while referring to an earlier observation of the court on the issue.
It also referred to a provision of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act and said that it "explicitly prohibits any kind of screening procedure for admission of children" and private schools, in the name of autonomy, cannot be allowed to have their own screening procedures.
"The right and interest of children hold utmost priority and are supreme. The answering respondents are attempting to ensure that the same remain protected, are ensured and may not be allowed to get sacrificed; children are not deprived of their childhood in the name of autonomy to private unaided recognized school or high expectation of demanding parents.
"It is further submitted that when the raison d`etre for recognition of a school is that it fulfills a `real need` of the locality, its autonomy cannot extend to choosing students beyond the locality," it said, defending the new guidelines that give 70, out of 100 points, to kids who live within six kms of the school."
The LG said the concept of "management quota" is essentially applicable to professional education, where "merit" is the criterion for admission.
"However, in the context of nursery admissions, where `merit` is not a criterion, the `management quota` has no rational basis," the affidavit said and sought dismissal of the pleas of private schools.