The Delhi High Court has issued directions to the Department of Education to ensure admissions to poor children under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category under Section 2(e) of the Right to Education Act (RTE Act) in schools at the elementary level. Such students from the EWS category had been given letters by the Department of Education (DoE), Government of NCT of Delhi confirming their admission to the respective schools in Delhi under the scheme of the RTE Act.

A Single Bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh was dealing with a matter in which the letters were issued pursuant to a draw of lots conducted by the DoE and the results were communicated to all the schools as well as the fortunate few children belonging to the EWS category who got selected by such a draw of lots. Despite the children possessing confirmed admission letters from the DoE, the schools refused to give them admission.

The Court said–

"It is high time that the judiciary reaches the people and not wait for the people to reach out to the judiciary, as the poor kids are being forced in the instant set of petitions to knock the doors of the Court for availing their Fundamental Right to Education. In view of the aforesaid analysis as well as to alleviate and ameliorate the miserable state of affairs as prevalent in the NCT of Delhi qua implementation of the RTE Act at elementary education level, it is pertinent to exercise the powers of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to issue directions to the DoE for ensuring admission to the poor children belonging to weaker sections."

The Counsel for the petitioners even made a statement, at the bar, that to add insult to injury, the school gates were literally shut in the faces of the shortlisted students and their parents. "One can just imagine the humiliation faced by young children and their parents. This Court, as a custodian of the Constitution, cannot remain a mute spectator to the outright bulldozing of human rights by those in the noble service of imparting education, thus bringing a bad name and repute to the same", the Court said.

Considering the flurry of petitions being filed before the High Court qua the admissions of students belonging to economically disadvantaged strata of society, and due to the paramount significance of the matter and its ramifications on the career of young students seeking admission, the batch of petitions was heard at length on the question of law with an intent to settle the principles governing the EWS admissions in schools and the mechanism for dealing with non-compliance of the same. The following were framed by the High Court:

1. What is the rationale behind granting reservation for students belonging to the EWS category under the RTE Act?

2. What is the method of calculating the percentage of 25% for admission to

3. What are the measures that can be adopted to ensure the provisions of the RTE Act and/other orders passed by the Directorate of Education under the Act?

After recording its findings on the issues, the Court directed as follows:

a. All the schools within the meaning of Section 2(n) of the RTE Act shall ensure that the provisions of the Act as interpreted herein shall be given effect in letter as well as in spirit;

b. All such schools as aforementioned shall also ensure that no student, belonging to 'Weaker Sections' as defined in the RTE Act and recommended by the DoE for being admitted in an Academic Session, shall be denied admission or treated with conduct that is unwelcoming of them on any pretext whatsoever including that of suspicion of credentials;

c. Any exemption/waiver if required by the schools under the provisions of the RTE Act, in the most exceptional and unforeseen circumstances, can be availed by making such request to the DoE as per the scheme;

d. The DoE shall exercise its powers under the Act and Rules to ensure that the provisions are duly complied with;

e. The DoE shall ensure that all the students shortlisted and notified to be admitted in a neighborhood school shall be admitted at the earliest within one month or within the period prescribed by the appropriate authority subject to the provisions of the Act;

f. In case of erring schools, the DoE shall issue strict directions as may be necessary to ensure the implementation of the RTE Act in a time-bound manner;

g. The DoE shall not hesitate in initiating the process of de-recognition of the schools who have been found to be indulging in any acts/omission in contravention of the RTE Act and the Delhi RTE Rules.

The Court further observed, "The schools have inter alia raised a contention regarding frauds being committed by the parents of the students seeking admission, misrepresenting themselves as belonging to weaker section by forging documents and other scrupulous means. In that regard, having considered the entire scheme of Act as well as the Rules and the various rulings passed by the Courts, this Court deems it fit, under the provisions/scheme as notified under the RTE Act/Delhi RTE Rules, to direct the DoE to carry out necessary screening as well as require for necessary documents to authenticate the credentials of the child and his/her parents and to verify the facts regarding eligibility while shortlisting, allotting and notifying the candidates who are found fit for admission to respective neighborhood schools under the said quota."

The Court however made clear that the admission of a student shortlisted under the said category by the DoE for being admitted shall not be denied for want of satisfaction of bona fides of the candidate by the school and mere suspicion or doubt on the credentials of the candidate on the basis of fact-finding exercise carried out by the school, cannot be a ground to deny admission, otherwise, it will render a death-knell to the spirit of the RTE Act.

The Court concluded, "The schools as such, in the matters of admission under the Act/Rules, cannot bestow upon themselves the roles of the complainant, advocate as well as the adjudicator in such cases. Rather, if despite the due process adopted by the DoE for screening, in case the school, after admitting the child, suspects fraud being committed by the ward or their parents, they can seek recourse to legal remedies as available."

Cause Title- Rameshwar Jha v. The Principal Richmond Global School & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2022/DHC/005590)

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