School's Illegal Denial Of Admissions Backfires: Delhi HC Upholds Child's Right

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The father of a five-year-old child sought directions against Adriel High School to secure admission as an EWS student, following DoE's lottery outcome

In a recent judgment, the Delhi High Court instructed Adriel High School to provide admission to a five-year-old child belonging to the EWS category. The child's name appeared on the EWS list subsequent to a lottery conducted by the Department of Education (DOE). 

The DoE published the available seats for the academic session 2023-24 on its website, indicating 67 general category and 20 EWS/DG category seats out of a total of 90 at the school. Schools were given fifteen days, to rectify any errors in the data. However, the said school did not submit any such representation. 

The bench of Justice C Hari Shankar held, "In view of the fact that no formal representation for sizing down the number of general category or EWS category seats available in its institution was made by the respondent- school to the DoE till 28 March 2023, the DoE cannot be faulted for having proceeded on the premise that the respondent-school was agreeable to admit 67 general category seats in the 2023-24 academic year". 

As per Section 12 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) and directives from the Directorate of Education (DoE), Master Vihan Vats, a five-year-old, applied for Nursery/Pre-School admission for the 2023-2024 academic year through his father. On March 14, 2023, the DoE conducted a computerized lottery, resulting in Master Vihan Vats being granted admission to Nursery/Pre-School at Adriel High School. However, despite his selection, Adriel High School refused admission.

Subsequently, Master Vihan Vats, represented by Advocates Vivek Kumar, Tandon Mamta Tandon and Prerna
, approached the court under Article 226 of the Constitution, seeking a mandamus writ to compel Adriel High School's admission as an EWS student in Nursery/Pre-school, in accordance with the DoE's lottery outcome.

The court instructed Adriel High School to provisionally admit Master Vihan Vats as an EWS student until the petition was resolved. Following this order, Adriel High School filed a petition seeking annulment of the order. Advocate Swati Surbhi, representing the School, claimed technical difficulties accessing the DoE's web portal. Additionally, it was argued that Master Vihan Vats did not initially choose Adriel High School for admission.

Concurrently, Adriel High School filed another appeal against the interim order, which was dismissed, and they were directed to comply with the interim order. Despite Master Vihan Vats enrolling elsewhere during this interim period, Adriel High School was ordered to admit him promptly.

The DoE, represented by Standing Counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi and Advocate Utkarsh Singh, supported Master Vihan Vats's case, while initially contesting Vihan's selection, Adriel High School later withdrew the argument. Furthermore, Adriel High School's request to reduce EWS seats prior to the lottery draw was rejected.

On January 13, 2023, the Department of Education (DoE) officially disclosed the available seats for the general and Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) categories at Adriel High School for the academic session 2023-24. The data indicated that Adriel High School had a total of 90 seats, with 67 seats in the general category and 20 seats in the EWS/DG category. Schools were instructed to report any inconsistencies within a specified timeframe, initially five days, later extended to ten days. Adriel High School failed to report any discrepancies within this timeframe. Consequently, the DoE's reliance on the published data cannot be contested.

The court noted that Adriel High School did not formally request a reduction in the number of general category or EWS category seats until March 28, 2023. Therefore, the DoE could not be criticized for assuming that Adriel High School intended to admit 67 general category seats in the academic year 2023-24. 

The court reiterated the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of I.T.O. v. M.K. Mohd. Kunhi [(1984) 1 SCC 307] that a court's authority to grant relief encompasses all necessary ancillary powers. “The power of a court to grant relief includes within it all ancillary and incidental powers which are necessary to effectuate the power to grant the final relief”, the court expounded.

The bench further observed, “The power to grant the final relief of admission is the power to grant provisional admission to the student. Though, ordinarily, a formal application to that effect is required to be filed, no jurisdictional error can be said to exist in the court granting provisional admission even if there was no formal prayer, or application, to that effect”.

Advocate Surbhi's argument that the neighborhood criterion was not followed lacked merit as Adriel High School was Master Vihan Vats's first choice in the list of preferred schools submitted for EWS candidate admission. Moreover, the court disagreed with the contention that provisional admission should not have been granted because Master Vihan Vats had previously studied at Adriel High School and this fact was not disclosed. The review petition against the provisional admission order was dismissed, and no further appeal was filed.

Additionally, the court noted that Master Vihan Vats was compelled to enroll in an alternate school because Adriel High School unlawfully denied admission. It is unreasonable for Adriel High School to capitalize on its own wrongdoing by pointing out that Master Vihan Vats subsequently enrolled in another school out of necessity.

Due to the aforementioned reasons, the court allowed the writ petition. The provisional admission of Master Vihan Vats to Adriel High School was upheld. Additionally, Master Vihan Vats was granted the right to continue receiving education from Adriel High School under the EWS category, following the guidelines of the RTE Act and the circular issued by the DoE. 

Case Title: Master Vihan Vats v Adriel High School & Anr (2024:DHC:2786)