A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking review of its order refusing to direct the Delhi lieutenant governor to either give assent to or return a 2015 bill which proposed a ban on screening children for nursery admission.
The review petition filed by NGO Social Jurist contended that the plea assumes importance in view of the recent Supreme Court judgments voicing displeasure over the governors of Punjab and Tamil Nadu delaying assent to bills passed and readopted by state legislatures.
The petition referred to the apex court’s observation that state governors must act in a manner consistent with the provisions of Article 200 of the Constitution. Article 200 outlines the process for a bill passed by the legislative assembly of a state to be presented to the governor for assent. The governor may either give consent to the bill, withhold assent or reserve the bill for consideration by the President of India. The governor may also return the bill for the legislature’s reconsideration.
The apex court had on October 13 dismissed the NGO’s plea, saying it cannot pass a direction to enact a law.
“Can there be a mandamus to enact a law? Can we direct the government to introduce the bill? Supreme Court can’t be the panacea for everything,” the top court had said.
Earlier, the Delhi High Court had dismissed a PIL filed by the NGO, 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, filed the appeal in the top court, contending the child-friendly bill banning the screening procedure for nursery admission has been “hanging” between the central and the Delhi government for the last seven years without any justification. The petition said it was against public interest and public policy.
Rejecting the PIL, a division bench of the Delhi High Court had said it was 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 had said.
Article 226 empowers a high court to issue writs for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of citizens and for many other purposes.
The appeal against the high court’s judgement said it highlighted that the very objective and purpose of the 2015 bill is to protect children from exploitation and unjust discrimination in nursery admission in private schools.
The purpose of the bill was defeated by the delay, it said, adding the Delhi government had got the legislation passed by the 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 NGO Social Jurist.
The high court had said in 2013 that the government may consider making necessary amendments to the law to ensure that children seeking admission to nursery classes also get the benefits of the Right to Education Act.
The 2009 law provides for free and compulsory education to 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.
It said more than 1.5 lakh admissions take place at the 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 Education Act, 2009.
It had sought the court’s direction to the authorities to expedite the process of finalisation of the bill banning screening for admission at the pre-primary level.