HC orders raising income threshold from Rs 1L to Rs 5L annually for admission to schools under EWS quota

The Delhi High Court Tuesday ordered raising the existing threshold income for admission to schools in the national capital under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh annually until the government amends the relevant law, saying the income criteria should match the living standards of the intended beneficiaries of the scheme.

The high court directed the Delhi government to immediately do away with the mechanism of self-declaration of income by parents and devise an appropriate framework for continuation of free seats for EWS in schools.

The Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE) shall frame a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for income verification and regular monitoring of the eligibility criteria, it said.

The high court’s judgement came in a case where a man had managed to secure his son’s admission to the city’s reputed Sanskriti School under the EWS category by falsifying birth and income certificates.

The court dismissed the petition moved by the boy challenging cancellation of his admission from the school. It, however, allowed him to continue studying there as a general category student.

The court said the child, who has been continuing with his studies since 2013, was not at fault and shall not be made to suffer for his father’s misdeeds. It imposed Rs 10 lakh as costs on the boy’s father for securing admission of his son by illicit means thereby denying a deserving candidate an opportunity to study in a school of repute.

“However, the admission of the petitioner and his continued education shall be recognised under the general category in place of EWS category. The extant rules and regulations governing the admission of students belonging to general category, including the payment of fees, shall apply,” it said.

“The present case enunciates a harrowing tale of blatant subversion of a welfare scheme enacted for extending the benefit of quality education to the EWS of the society. The case at hand reflects a tormenting state of affairs where the opulent class is putting in blood, sweat and tears to reap the benefits of EWS reservation at the expense of the economically marginalized candidates. A calculated attempt at subverting the cherished constitutional vision of education for all is under scrutiny in this case,” Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav said.

To ensure the implementation of the Right To Education (RTE) Act, the high court said the Delhi government, after assessing the prevailing economic conditions in the city and other relevant factors, shall expeditiously take a decision to increase the existing threshold income of Rs 1 lakh annually to a commensurate amount which corresponds to the living standards of the intended beneficiaries of the scheme.

“Needless to observe, the criteria must be scientific and must be based on actual data. Till the aforesaid exercise is done and appropriate amendment is made in the scheme, the required income under Clause 2(c) of 2011 Order shall be considered to be increased to Rs 5 lakh instead of Rs 1 lakh as all the other states have the threshold amount in question to the tune of almost Rs 8 lakhs,” the court said.

It said DoE shall diligently verify the admissions at regular intervals and nobody shall be admitted without fulfilling the requisite eligibility.

Under the Right to Education Act, 25 per cent seats are reserved for the economically poor in private unaided schools, and as per the Delhi School Education (Free seats for Students belonging to Economically Weaker Sections and Disadvantaged Group) Order, 2011, schools are required to admit children belonging to EWS in class one to the extent of at least 25 percent of the strength of that class and provide free and compulsory elementary education till its completion.

“It can, therefore, be inferred that the legislative intent behind the enactment of legislations in benefit of the economically marginalised sections was to ensure that the shackles of poverty are broken to help children from weaker sections to gain quality education.

“The EWS reservation in schools is, thus, not merely an enticing promise but a sincere attempt to maintain equitable standards of education for all in a multifaceted socio-economic structure,” Justice Kaurav said.

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The court ordered the costs imposed on the father of the boy to be deposited with the school and, in case the man fails to do it within six months, the admission shall be deemed to be cancelled.

“The cost has been imposed after assessing the affluent financial well-being of the petitioner’s father, which is evident from the ITRs of the subsequent years, numerous foreign trips etc. and also considering the fact that the petitioner has eaten up the seat of a deserving child, who would have otherwise enjoyed the fortune of quality education,” it said.

The court also highlighted the need to revisit the income criterion set out for availing the benefits of the EWS reservation scheme in schools and said when the minimum wage of an unskilled labour in Delhi is Rs 17,494 per month, it is too far-fetched to assume that the total parental income of a child seeking admission under EWS category and living in a metropolitan city shall be below Rs 1 lakh annually.

“It is apparently forcing the common people, who otherwise fall in the bottom line of the economic strata, to resort to unfair means to secure admission for their children or to keep their hands off from the benefits of welfare legislation,” it said.

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