The Delhi High Court has held that the disadvantaged groups and economically backward classes i.e., EWS students must be given equal opportunities to come forward in life and study in schools along with other children so that they are part of the mainstream of the society.

A Single Bench of Justice Mini Pushkarna noted, “This Court cannot ignore the fact that the disadvantaged groups of the society have to be given equal opportunities to come forward in life. This includes giving opportunity to the students belonging to the disadvantaged groups and economically backward classes to study in schools along with other children, so that they are part of the mainstream of the society. Further, if the admissions are denied to such applicants under the EWS/DG category on such unjustified grounds, then the limited seats which are available under the EWS/DG category will go waste. Such a situation cannot be allowed to perpetrate, as every vacant seat against EWS/DG quota signifies denial of quality education to a child belonging to poor strata of society.”

The Bench said that the denial of admission to a child under the EWS/DG category would violate the rights of such children under Article 21A of the Constitution of India as well as the rights available to such students under the Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act).

Advocates Aayush Agarwala, Bhumika Sharma, and Auritro Mukherjee appeared for the petitioners while Advocate Randhir Kumar appeared for the respondent school.

In this case, a contempt petition was filed by three minor children for non-compliance with the order passed by the court in 2021 whereby the respondent school was directed to grant admission under the EWS/DG category to the petitioners. The petitioners were seeking admission in the said school in Class-I under the said category.

The petitioners were successful in the draw of lots conducted by the Directorate of Education (DOE), Government of NCT of Delhi, and were allotted the respondent school for admission under the EWS/DG category. The petitioners were denied admission on account of various objections raised by the school.

The High Court in the above regard observed, “This Court cannot shut its eye to the fact that petitioner No.1 belongs to disadvantaged group in the society. Thus, petitioner No.1 who is living in a rural area and in a rented accommodation cannot be denied admission merely because the nominee of the DOE was unable to trace the address of the petitioner on subsequent physical verification. This is especially so, when a report already exists given on behalf of the DOE confirming the address of the petitioner.”

The Court, therefore, directed the respondent school to grant admission to the petitioners in Class-I forthwith under the EWS/DG category.

“When a seat under the EWS/DG category has been allotted to petitioner No.2, the respondent school cannot be allowed to deny admission by raising one or the other objection, which are found to be unjustified”, said the Court.

The Court further said that as far as admission under the EWS/DG category is concerned, the strict criteria of neighbourhood cannot be followed.

“The DOE receives large number of applications under the EWS/DG category. Whereas, the seats which are available under the EWS/DG category are very limited. Thus, once a school has been validly allotted by the DOE to an applicant for admission under the EWS/DG category, the schools cannot deny admission to students under EWS/DG category by raising such objections”, held the Court.

The Court also noted that the respondent school is under an obligation to reserve 25% of its seats against the available/declared strength of its classes at the entry-level in the school under the RTE Act.

“The respondent school cannot shun its responsibility under Article 21A of the Constitution of India, which provides a categorical obligation on the State to ensure to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age 6 to 14 years as a fundamental right. It is to ensure that the fundamental right as granted by the Constitution of India under Article 21A is made available, that the RTE Act was promulgated. The RTE Act inter-alia under Section 12 mandates that every school shall admit at least 25% of the strength of its class, the children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups and provide them with free and compulsory elementary education”, observed the Court.

The Court concluded that the petitioners shall approach the school within a period of one week to seek admission and that the school shall immediately process the documents as submitted by the petitioners. It said that in case the petitioners face any difficulty, the DOE shall extend full cooperation and assistance to them for taking admission.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the plea.

Cause Title- Shahnaz Khatoon & Ors. v. GS Goenka Public School (Neutral Citation: 2023:DHC:4071)

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