The High Court on Tuesday ordered the Delhi government to increase the threshold income for availing of the reservation under the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) category in private schools to ₹5 lakh from the current ₹1 lakh per annum.
The order will remain in force until the Delhi government takes a decision to increase the income slab to a “commensurate amount which corresponds to the living standards of the intended beneficiaries of the scheme in the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi”, the High Court said.
It added that when the minimum wage of an unskilled labourer in the city is ₹17,494 per month, it is too far-fetched to assume that the total parental income of a child seeking admission under the EWS category and living in a metropolitan city shall be below ₹1 lakh annually.
The threshold income of ₹1 lakh “does not precisely reflect the economic hardships faced by families in the contemporary times”, the Bench of Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav said.
It said a comparative analysis of the threshold income criterion in the NCT of Delhi with the rest of the States and Union Territories would signify that the NCT of Delhi has the “lowest requisite income criteria as compared to the amount of ₹8 lakh per annum followed by most of the States”.
The court also directed the government to eradicate the mechanism of self-declaration of income by parents immediately.
It asked the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE) to frame a standard operating procedure (SOP) for income verification and regular monitoring of the eligibility criteria, adding that the “possibility of finding a large number of self-declarations to be false cannot be ruled out”.
Under the Right to Education Act, 25% seats in private schools are reserved for candidates from the EWS category.
The High Court’s directions came while hearing a case in which the father of a child faked his income certificate to admit him to the prestigious Sanskriti School in Chanakyapuri here in 2013 under the EWS quota.
The child continued to study in the school as an EWS category candidate without any difficulty till January 2018, when a controversy broke out as the father wrote to the principal of the school, seeking alteration in the EWS category to general.
The school initiated an inquiry, which revealed that the income certificate was obtained by misrepresenting the actual income by the father.
The court, however, allowed the child to continue studying at the school as a general category student.
The court said the child was not at fault and could not be made to suffer for his father’s misdeeds. It imposed ₹10 lakh as costs on the boy’s father for securing admission of his son through illegal means.