Delhi High Court: In a case wherein the petitioners despite being successful in the draw of lots conducted by the Directorate of Education (‘DOE’) and having been allotted the school in question, they had been denied admission as they did not fulfill the neighbourhood criteria, a Single Judge Bench of Mini Pushkarna, J.* rejected the objection raised by Respondent 1 with respect to the distance of the residence of the two petitioners from the school and further, directed Respondent 1 to grant admission to the two petitioners in Class 1 under the Economically Weaker Section (‘EWS’) Category/ Disadvantaged Group (‘DG’) category. The Court opined that in cases of admission under the EWS/DG category, the schools must not insist upon following the neighbourhood criteria strictly.
The present writ petition had been filed with prayer for directions to Respondent 1 to grant admission to the petitioners under the EWS category/DG category in Class 1. It was the case of the petitioners that despite being successful in the draw of lots conducted by the DOE and having been allotted the school in question, they had been denied admission.
The Counsel for the Respondent 1 submitted that the residence of the petitioners was approximately 4 kms away from the school in question and therefore, the petitioners did not fulfil the neighbourhood criteria and thus, could not be granted admission. Whereas counsel for the petitioners submitted that the petitioners were willing to travel 4 kms distance to study in Respondent 1. Counsel for DOE submitted that schools were allotted under the EWS/DG category as per the choice of the schools as given in the application form by the applicants. It was further submitted that the criteria of neighbourhood were not followed in the strict sense by DOE at the time of allotment of schools under the EWS/DG category, in view of the fact that there were large number of applicants under the said category, while number of seats available under the said category were much low.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court noted that while allotting seats for admission under the EWS/DG category, it might not be possible for DOE to follow the criteria of neighbourhood strictly as only limited seats were available for admission under EWS/DG category in each of the school, whereas the number of applicants who desired to seek admission under the EWS/DG category were far more in number than the seats available. Thus, the Court opined that in cases of admission under the EWS/DG category, the schools in question might not insist upon following the neighbourhood criteria strictly.
The Court opined that “if seats in a particular school were available under the EWS/DG category, then the DOE was required to allot such schools to the applicants who had applied for admission under the said category. If seats under the EWS/DG category were allowed to go waste, merely on the ground that the applicants who had been allotted such seats did not meet the neighbourhood criteria strictly, then the whole purpose of reservation of seats for admission under the said category would be defeated. The Court could not be oblivious of the noble purpose with which criteria had been developed for reservation of seats under the EWS/DG category. The social purpose of reservation of seats under the EWS/DG category could not be allowed to be lost, if such objections with regard to the applicants not meeting the neighbourhood criteria, were entertained especially when admissions under the EWS/DG category were involved”.
The Court held that the present order was being passed keeping in view the fact that the children belonging to the weaker sections of the society were to be given equal opportunities for education in good schools, so that such students were able to come in the mainstream of the society. Further, the Court directed that the DOE should make endeavour, as far as possible, to allot schools which were nearest to the residence of the students.
The Court rejected the objection raised by Respondent 1 regarding the distance of the two petitioners’ residence from the school and further directed Respondent 1 to grant admission to the two petitioners in Class 1 under the EWS/DG category. Further, the Court clarified that since it was the case on behalf of Respondent 1 that the school did not provide any transportation to the area in question where the petitioners resided, the petitioners should make their own arrangements for travel from their residence to the school and should not insist on providing transportation to them in case no transportation was provided by the school to the area in question, where the petitioners resided.
[Tarun Kumar v. The Principal Happy Hours School, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 3363, decided on 31-5-2023]
*Judgement authored by: Justice Mini Pushkarna
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioners: Devendra Kumar, N.K. Upadhyay, Advocates;
For the Respondents: Santosh Kumar Tripathi, Manika Tripathy, Senior Counsels; Utkarsh Singh, B.C. Pandey, S.P. Kamrah, Advocates.