India Education
Public schools given land for a song, DDA tells court
Apr 18, 2007 - 8:49:44 PM

New Delhi, April 18 - The government Wednesday disclosed to the Delhi High court that schools built on government land in the capital had been given three fourth of the land at one-tenth of the market price and the remaining one fourth of it at the rate of Re.1 per acre.

Disclosing the startling quantum of subsidy given to public schools to purchase the government land, Delhi Development Authority - counsel Vinay Sabharwal told a bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and S.N. Agrawal that the schools were given monumental subsidy on the cost of land only on the condition that they would reserve at least 20 percent of their seats for the poor students and educate them free of cost.

Sabharwal said that while three fourth of the land was given to construct the school building etc, the remaining one fourth was given at the dirt-cheap rate of Re.1 per acre to ensure that children have proper playground in the schools.

He said that DDA, before handing over the possession of the subsidized land to schools, had categorically stipulated in its lease deed that other land allotment letter that the schools will have to reserve 20 percent of their seats for free education to the poor students.

Following submissions made by the DDA counsel, the bench asked advocate Ashok Agarwal, who is pressing the court through a public interest litigation to force beneficiary schools to reserve 20 percent of their seats for the poor, 'Whether the condition of granting freeship is obligatory and enforceable?'

'What is the validity of the show-cause notices issued to the schools by the Directorate of Education - and DDA,' asked the bench adding whether legal action could be initiated against the defaulting schools.

The bench posed these queries also to the counsel representing the various government departments.

The court asked the government counsel to clarify whether the Jan 25, 2007 notification of the Delhi lieutenant governor enforcing the 20 percent quota to the poor for free education in public schools, built on subsidized government land, was valid.

'Whether there was any dereliction of duty on the parts of the officials of the Directorate of Education and DDA for not implementing the clause in the past?,' the court wanted to know.

Counsel Avinash Ahalwat appearing for the Directorate of Education submitted that the court-appointed committee had recommended that all the 361 public schools, built on subsidised public land, should reserve 20 percent of their total seats for free education to the poor students.

On Jan 31, some public schools had filed a petition challenging the Delhi government's notification for free education to 20 percent of students in schools built on subsidized land, contending that the notification could not be implemented in its present form.

The high court had directed the government to implement the provisions in the lease deeds with the schools by forcing them to admit at least 20 per cent students under free ship quota.

The Delhi lieutenant governor has notified the state government's Oct 2006 order to private schools built on subsidized public land to reserve 20 percent of their seats for poor students and also waive their fees.

On Sep 13, 2005, the High Court had issued a stern warning to 106 private unaided public schools built on the government land allotted at a concessional rate, to provide 20 percent seats to the poor students.

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