HC asks Centre to clarify its stand on nursery admission

The Centre was today asked by the Delhi High Court to clarify its stand by tomorrow as to whether the Right to Education Act is applicable to nursery admission or not.

"Two things you (Ministry of Law and Justice) need to make clear is whether the Right to Education Act is applicable to nursery admission or not and if not applicable, then what is the procedure to be followed for nursery admission," a bench headed by Chief Justice D Murugesan said.

The court had earlier reserved its verdict on a PIL challenging two government notifications that gave powers to unaided private schools to formulate their own criteria for nursery class admission.

During the hearing, the court said, "We had reserved our order. We could have taken a stand on the applicability of the Act on nursery admission, but we wanted to know your (the Centre's) views also."

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Rajeeve Mehra, arguing for the Centre, sought two days' time to respond to the queries.

Earlier, the ASG had said that the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (also known as RTE Act) stipulates that a child, between the age group of 6 to 14, would be treated as a child covered under the legislation and, hence, nursery admission would not come under its purview.

"If it is not applicable (to nursery admission) then what is the purpose," the bench, also comprising Justice V K Jain, said, adding that "we have been told that the nursery admission is valid and no fresh admission is needed for formal schooling.

"Then, there would be no seats left for the children of age group of 6 to 14," it said and fixed the matter for further hearing tomorrow.

Earlier, the court had reserved its order on the PIL, filed by NGO Social Jurist, against two notifications issued by Human Resources Development Ministry and Directorate of Education of Delhi government respectively.

The notifications gave schools the power to formulate their own admission criteria, the PIL said.

During the hearing, the court had made clear that its decision on the PIL would also affect nursery admissions for the 2013-14 academic session.

The PIL has alleged that the notifications gave "a totally free hand to all unaided recognised private schools to formulate their own nursery admission criteria based on categorisation of children...".

However, the categorisations of kids in admission have specifically been barred by the RTE Act, it said, adding that some schools still give preferences in admission on grounds such as religion, alumni and sibling.

A federation of private schools, however, opposed the PIL, saying that the private institutions cannot be forced to "toe" the diktat so far as the admission process is concerned. 

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