Delhi High Court changes threshold income for EWS reservation in private schools from ₹1 lakh per year to ₹5 lakh

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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Delhi government to consider increasing the threshold income for availing reservation under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) quota in private schools from ₹1 lakh per annum to an amount commensurate to existing living standards. [Master Singham v. Directorate of Education & Anr]
Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav ordered that till the Delhi government conducts such exercise after assessing the prevailing economic conditions of parents, the required income shall be increased to ₹5 lakh, even as other states have increased the amount to ₹8 lakh.

“The threshold income of Rs 1,00,000 does not precisely reflect the economic hardships faced by the families in the contemporary times and therefore, it ought to change with the dynamism of the economic structure of the society,” Justice Kaurav observed.

At present, a child whose parents have a total income of less than ₹1 lakh per year, and have been staying in Delhi for the last three years, is eligible for EWS reservation.

The Court opined that the same was forcing common people to resort to unfair means to secure admission for their children.

“It is deeply agonizing to see the complete apathy and lackadaisical attitude of the State authorities which is at the helm of protecting the educational rights of the economically weaker sections of the society, which flow from the fundamental Right to Education,” the judgment stated.

The Court also ordered the Delhi government to immediately eradicate the mechanism of self-declaration under the rules, and instead bring in place an appropriate framework for continuation of free seats in schools.

In this context, the Court opined that if an inquiry were ordered to be directed into the admissions, it would possibly create “havoc and chaos” in the education system.

“The possibility of finding a larger number of self-declarations to be false cannot be ruled out.”

The Court directed the government to ensure that the Directorate of Education (DoE) verifies admissions to ensure only eligible candidates are given admissions through the EWS quota.

In turn, it ordered the DoE to frame a Standard Operating Procedure for income verification and regular monitoring of eligibility criteria.

The Court was hearing a petition challenging the cancellation of admission of a student whose father was found to have forged Voter IDs to meet the eligibility criteria. The child’s father had also made a false declaration regarding his income.

Taking note of the admission made by the father of the student that his income was much higher than the requisite income for claiming the EWS reservation, the Court concluded that the wrongdoings are clearly established.

However, the Court also opined that the child was not at fault and should not be made to suffer due to his father’s misdeeds. Taking note that the child has been continuing his studies since 2013, the Court ordered that his admission shall remain undisturbed.

It was made clear that his admission and further education shall be under the General Category.

Though the Court granted relief to the child, it also imposed costs of ₹10 lakh on his father. The Court arrived at this amount after looking into the Income Tax Returns and foreign trips of the father.

It added that if he does not deposit the amount, the admission of his child shall be deemed to be cancelled in accordance with the orders passed in 2021 by authorities.

On the larger issue of EWS reservation, the Court took note that the minimum wage of an unskilled labourer in Delhi is ₹17,494 per month, but even the children of such labourers are not entitled for EWS admissions.

Stressing on the need to revisit the income criterion, the Court remarked that governments are reasonably expected to respond to the changing needs of society.

During the hearing of the case, the Court turned down a proposal made by the DoE to increase the threshold amount of ₹1 lakh to ₹2.5 lakh per year, as it opined that the same won’t ameliorate the “miserable situation” prevailing in the schools of Delhi.

Advocates Vaibhav Sethi, Priya Pathania, Vikhyat Oberoi, Jagriti Pandey, Onmichon Ramlal, Mohit Garg, Rana Bed, Diskha Kakkar and Aditya Khanna represented the petitioner.

Standing Counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi with Advocates Arun Panwar, Pradyumn Rao and Utkarsh Singh represented the Directorate of Education.

Advocates Siddarth Nath, Khushboo Hora and Anunay Chowdhary represented the school.

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