Arhaan Mukherjee Saha, School student files PIL in Delhi High Court for providing better playground facilities in all government schools

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: A Public Interest litigation has been filed by Arhaan Mukherjee Saha, a minor student under Article 226 of the Constitution for issuance of a writ in the nature of mandamus or such other appropriate writ, order, or direction, directing the respondents to ensure that all government schools in Delhi had playground/playground facility for students so that they were able to play outdoor games.

The petitioner submitted that he was a public-spirited Indian citizen, having great respect for the ideals of the Constitution and that he had no personal interest in the litigation and the petition was not guided by self-gain or for gain of any other person/institution/body and that there was no motive other than of public interest in filing the present writ petition.

The petitioner stated that as per the information provided by the Ministry of Education, Government of India in response to an RTI Application filed by the petitioner on 12-08-2023, there were 200 schools in Delhi that did not have playgrounds. This information was further substantiated by the Directorate of Education, Government of Delhi, which showed that many Delhi government schools did not have playground/playground facilities for the students. The petitioner submitted that since the information was available on the government website, therefore, the veracity of the information could not be refuted even by the government. However, after finding that there were tens of Delhi government schools without playgrounds in five out of thirteen administrative districts alone under the Department of Education, further inquiry/investigation was done personally, by the petitioner with the assistance of his mother to determine the veracity of the same.

The petitioner submitted that the present petition sought protection of the fundamental rights of tens of thousands of school students, enforcement of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 in relation to playground facilities for school children and implementation of the principles of the National Education Policy of ensuring an environment for the physical and mental well-being of children studying in schools governed by the Government of Delhi.

The petitioner also submitted that the affected school children were not coming to this Court for several reasons including the fear of facing disciplinary action and expulsion from school and some of them who were not paranoid, were unable to afford the litigation expenses.

The petitioner further submitted that a representation dated 10-08-2023 was sent to competent authorities by the petitioner on 15-08-2023 to ensure the availability of playground facilities in each school in India. However, no action was taken by Respondent 1 other than forwarding the representation to some officials. On 16-09-2023, the petitioner sent another representation dated 10-09-2023 to the respondents for ensuring playground facilities in schools, in Delhi. However, no action was taken, nor any action taken report or plan of action was communicated to the petitioner.

Grounds for filing the Public Interest Litigation

  1. Section 19 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 required all schools including the Delhi government schools to have playgrounds;
  2. The Schedule under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 provided that all school buildings must have playground/playground facility for the school children;
  3. In furtherance of the National Education Policy, 2020, the Government of India had advised all states and UTs to encourage schools to include traditional/regional games of the respective State/Region. Thus, it was the duty of the respondents to ensure the effective implementation of the National Education Policy/New Education Policy formulated by the Government of India;
  4. The requirement to have playgrounds in schools was made by both the houses of Parliament in furtherance of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right to education to children between the ages of six to fourteen under Article 21-A of the Constitution;
  5. In State of Haryana v. Satpal, (2023) 6 SCC 643, the Supreme Court held that “there cannot be any school without a playground. Even the students who study in such a school are entitled to a good environment”;
  6. As per the affiliation bye-laws of CBSE, all schools were compulsorily required to possess playgrounds and other sports facilities for students;
  7. Article 39(f) of the Constitution provided a directive to the respondents to direct their policy towards securing that children were given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner. Further, the right to health had been recognised as a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Hence, the petitioner submitted that the action and the inaction of the respondents was unreasonable, unfair, unjust, unwarranted, irrational, illegal, arbitrary, and unconstitutional.

The petitioner, thus, prayed before this Court to issue a writ in the nature of mandamus under Article 226 of the Constitution or such other appropriate writ, order, or direction, directing the respondents to ensure that all government schools under the governance of the Government of Delhi had playground/playground facilities along with having proper facilities for outdoor sports in such playground.

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For the Petitioner: Md Imran Ahmad, Advocate

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