New Delhi: The high court judgment on Siddharth International School does much more than just direct a school to admit a disabled child. Activists pointed out that the judgment will have a “far-reaching impact”, can help hundreds of kids and serve as a check on governments interpreting the law in a way that goes against children.
The court made several important observations regarding “age-appropriate” class, distance and neighbourhood, and right to education for the disabled. It also said the 25% of EWS/DG ( economically weaker section and disadvantaged groups) quota in private schools benefits the 75% of fee-paying kids by making them “more sensitive and humane”.
The original order to admit the child was that of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal’s. The school challenged it citing several issues, one of which was discrepancies in Priyanshu’s age documents.
However, after deciding that the school does have a vacant EWS/DG seat, HC observed, “Discrepancy in the date of birth…in the present case is due to poverty, ignorance and backwardness of relatives.” The court further cited the RTE Act that no child will be denied admission “for lack of age proof”.
“Sections 8(c) and 12 is for the benefit of the child and meant to ensure that he/she gets access to elementary education, despite any technical difficulties,” said the judgment. The school had also argued there is an “upper-age limit” for admission.
Activists appreciated the HC judgment. “The court has interpreted the provisions of the RTE Act and it’ll have a far-reaching impact. Its stand on age-appropriate classes is not just for Priyanshu. It has also maintained that you can’t interpret any provision of the RTE in a way that goes against a child. This is binding even on governments,” said lawyer-activist Khagesh Jha.
The court has even made it possible for children living in Delhi’s border areas to seek admission in its schools. The private school had argued that the boy stayed in Ghaziabad, faraway from the school, and had no means of commute. The DoE’s field visit “confirmed…there is a nearby and direct road from the house to the…school” and the neighbourhood norms were met.