The Delhi High Court on Monday said that there cannot be two sets of schools -– one mandating six years as the minimum age for applying for class 1 and others requiring five years — in the city for the same education. Justice Rekha Palli, who was hearing petitions challenging the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan’s decision setting six years as the minimum age for admission to class 1 in Kendriya Vidyalayas in the upcoming academic year, observed that while it was not interfering with the national education policy (NEP), having two different age criteria for class 1 admission would “lead to an anomalous situation”.
“It (KV) is a school like any other school. Centre can’t say that just because I’m running this school, I’ll go dehors,” the court said.
“In Delhi, you can’t have two kinds of schools giving the same education. We can’t have this type of disparity in NCT. You (Centre) have to work (it) out and apply your mind,” the court added.
Delhi government counsel told the court that the age criteria for admission to class 1 in its schools was still five years and it has “nothing to do” with KVs.
The counsel for the Centre, Apoorv Kurup, said that the new age eligibility was in terms of the NEP which was “made to overcome this disparity” and that it wrote to the State authorities to adopt the same.
The Centre is trying to get everyone to the six-plus age requirement and 21 States and Union Territories are already following it, the lawyer said.
The court stated that just because the Delhi government has not adopted the NEP, “why should parents and children suffer”. “The court will not get into education policy. (But) you have to take proactive steps for (bringing) uniformity,” it further said.
The court also asked the respondents if they gave “advance notice” to the stakeholders that there would be a change in the admission criteria for class 1 in terms of the NEP which came into existence in 2020.
“Did you follow the NEP 2021? Was there any public notice that you will follow this year? The policy is there since 2020..should have given some public notice,” the court stated.
Justice Palli permitted counsel for the central government and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) to file on record relevant documents on the issue and said that she would pass a reasoned order on the issue on granting interim relief to the petitioners.
Lawyer Ashok Agarwal, appearing for one of the petitioners, said that the KVS suddenly changed the age criteria which took the parents by surprise, and at least a year’s notice should have been given.
KVS had earlier told the court that the age criteria were updated in strict compliance with the 2020 National Education Policy which was issued by the Centre on July 9, 2020.
In her petition, a five-year-old girl has claimed that the change in age criteria, which was earlier five years, is in violation of the right to education guaranteed to the petitioner under Articles 14, 21, and 21-A of the Constitution as well as under the provisions of Delhi School Education Act, 1973 and Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
The petitioner, a UKG student who was represented by Agarwal, claimed has that KVS suddenly changed the admission criteria for class 1 to six years by uploading the guidelines for admission to Kendriya Vidyalayas on its portal just four days before the admission process started last month.
The petition has stated that change is arbitrary, discriminatory, unjust, unreasonable, and without the authority of law and that it did not give sufficient time to the parents to make alternate arrangements.
“The change to six-plus years is an invention of the respondent KVS without any mandate from the NEP 2020 (the National Education Policy 2020) and that too at the disadvantage of children like the petitioner,” said the petition filed through the father of the girl.
It has added that most of the reputed private schools have closed their admission and as compared to students of other schools, children in KV would lose one year for no fault of their own.
“No comments were invited from affected parties, nor any public discussion held. Therefore, it is respectfully submitted that impugned guidelines suffer from unreasonableness and hit by Article 14 of Constitution of India,” said the petition which seeks a direction to the authorities to reframe the admission criteria in accordance with the law. The matter would be heard next on March 16.