Plea in SC challenges Delhi HC order dismissing PIL on banning screening of children for nursery admissions

 A plea was filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the Delhi High Court order refusing to direct the lieutenant governor to give assent to or return a 2015 Bill which proposed a ban on screening children for nursery admissions.

The high court had on July 3 dismissed a PIL filed by NGO Social Jurist’, saying it cannot interfere with the legislative procedure and direct the LG to either give assent to the Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 or return it.

The organisation, through advocate Ashok Agarwal, has filed the appeal in the top court saying the child-friendly bill “banning the screening procedure in nursery admission in schools has been hanging between the Central and the Delhi government for the last 7 years without any justification and against the public interest and opposed to public policy”.

Rejecting the PIL, a division bench of HC had said it is not proper for a high court while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution to direct a governor, who is a constitutional authority, to set a time frame in matters which come purely within his domain.

“In the considered opinion of this court, even though the Bill has been passed by the House, it is always open to the governor to agree or to send the Bill back to the House and this court ought not pass a writ of mandamus directing the governor to act,” the high court said in its order.

The appeal against the HC judgement said it highlighted that the very objective and purpose of the 2015 Bill is to protect tiny children from exploitation and unjust discrimination in nursery admission in private schools.

The purpose of the Bill was literally defeated by the delay, it said, adding the Delhi government had got the legislation passed by the state assembly way back in 2015. The Bill, it said, was passed keeping in mind the 2013 decision of the Delhi High Court on a PIL filed by the Social Jurist.

The high court had said in 2013 the government may consider making necessary amendments in the law to ensure that children seeking nursery admission also get the benefits of the Right to Education Act. The 2009 law provides for free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of 6 to 14 years as a fundamental right.

The NGO said it made a representation to the authorities on March 21, 2023 requesting them to urgently finalise the Bill. However, on April 11, a response was received from the Centre stating the Bill was yet to be finalised by the two governments.

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It said more than 1.5 lakh admissions take place at nursery level every year in private schools in Delhi and children above three years of age are subjected to screening which is against the letter and spirit of the Right to Information Act, 2009.

“There is no justification at all to not prohibit screening procedure at nursery level and therefore, respondents are required to finalise the bill as soon as possible to do justice to tiny tots of the country,” the plea in high court had said.

It had sought the court’s direction to the authorities to expedite the process of finalisation of the Bill so far as it relates to the prohibition of screening in admission at pre-primary level (nursery/ pre-primary).

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