“Why do you bring out notification at the eleventh hour,” an anguished Delhi High Court bench asked AAP government on Thursday while taking it to task for forcing private unaided minority schools to admit students in nursery using the neighbourhood criteria.
While dealing with issues relating to private minority unaided schools here, the court said the government cannot force such institutions to follow the January 7 notification regarding neighbourhood criteria for nursery admissions as it was prima facie “contrary to the constitutional mandate”.
“Why do you (government) bring out notification at the eleventh hour,” Justice Manmohan asked.
“Government baffles me at times. Some time they just pass orders without reading the statutes and judgements (of the Supreme Court on private minority institutes). You cannot bring out notification which is contrary to the Constitution and constitution bench judgements,” the court said.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Directorate of Education (DoE), told the court that minority schools were at liberty to decide on admission and “after admitting the minority students, whatever seats are left, on that we want them to apply the neighbourhood criteria”.
Delhi government counsel told the court that they have left it open for minority schools to decide on admitting students.
However, the judge observed, “It is contrary to the law and contrary to the Constitution. I am of the prima facie view that this is covered by the constitution bench judgements”.
When the government said the Right to Education (RTE) Act also spoke of neighbourhood concept, the bench said, “you are missing a point that even in RTE Act, constitution bench has said it will not apply to minority institutions”.
During the arguments, the ASG told the court, “we are not interfering in the rights of minority institutions. We are not telling them to regulate anything. We are not even putting any condition on their administration”.
When the court was told that neighbourhood criteria was for “public interest”, the bench observed, “public interest is also that minorities don’t feel alienated at all”.
“I am prima facie inclined to grant a complete stay as far as minority schools are concerned. You can’t take decision at the last moment. Everybody is under pressure now,” Justice Manmohan said, adding, “I don’t want the students to be under any stress at all”.