In the matter of Tarun Kumar & Anr v The Principal Happy Hours School & Ors. a complaint was made by two applicants who were given places at Principal Happy Hours schools in Delhi via a Department of Education lottery. They were refused admittance by the school, which stated that they did not meet the neighbourhood requirements because they lived nearly 4 km distant from the school. Therefore a plea was filed in Delhi high court challenging the neighbourhood criteria for admission to the school.
Analysis of court decision
The Delhi High Court single judge bench Justice Mini Pushkarna rejected the school’s objection and ordered it to admit the petitioners to Class I under the EWS category, holding that private schools may not insist on strictly adhering to the neighbourhood criteria in cases of admissions under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS)/Disadvantaged Group (DG) categories.
The Delhi High Court’s single-judge panel stated that if seats for EWS students are allowed to become vacant just because potential students do not meet the neighbourhood requirement that they must live close to the school, the entire purpose of EWS reservation will be defeated.
The court cannot be blind to the noble goal for which criteria have been developed for seat reservations under the EWS and DG category, the bench further emphasized. If such concerns regarding the candidates not fitting the neighbourhood criteria are heard, especially when admissions under the EWS and DG category are involved, the social purpose of the reservation of seats under the EWS and DG category cannot be permitted to be lost.
The Court made it clear that the decision is being made with the idea that children from socially disadvantaged groups should have an equal chance to receive a quality education so that they can integrate into society’s mainstream. The Court added and therefore rejected a request not to strictly enforce adherence to neighbourhood criteria about EWS reservations, but it is directed that the DOE shall make an effort, to the extent practicable, to designate schools that are closest to the residence of the pupils in question. Two kids who lived four kilometres away had to be admitted to a Delhi school, per the court’s order.