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The Delhi High Court has upheld a Delhi government circular mandating that all schools running under the aegis of the Directorate of Education (DoE) follow textbooks prescribed by the SCERT, NCERT and CBSE.
Stressing on the importance of uniform education that does not hold the danger of inculcating ideas in children that may be contrary to national interest, the Court observed,
“The sowing of extreme and fundamentalist seeds, in impressionable and innocent minds, is not an unknown phenomenon today, and prescribing of common educational media, to be scrupulously followed by schools under the common CBSE umbrella, is but a small step towards controlling this menace.”
The order was pronounced by a Single Judge Bench of Justice C Hari Shankar in a challenge preferred by Federation of Educational Publishers In India.
Issued by the DoE, the circular dated November 29, 2018 also stipulated maximum weights of school bags carried by children in various classes from Class I to Class X, as well as the number of textbooks and notebooks required to be carried by students.
After the Court questioned the petitioner’s locus to ventilate any grievance against the weight of school bags, the Federation limited the challenge to the ban on textbooks other than those prescribed by the NCERT or the SCERT.
While the petitioner Federation contended that the DoE overstepped the boundaries of its jurisdiction and authority in making usage of NCERT/SCERT textbooks mandatory, the DoE argued that the circular was issued with due authority to bring uniformity in the textbooks to be used by schools.
Dismissing the contentions raised by Federation, the Court observed,
“…the whole grievance, in the writ petition, is essentially a non-issue, and is premised on a fundamental misreading of the Circular, and the impugned stipulation therein.”
Clarifying the consequence of the circular, the Court said that it did not state that the schools were required to follow textbooks published by the SCERT, NCERT and CBSE, but prescribed by them.
The power and authority of the NCERT, the SCERT and the CBSE to prescribe the textbooks to be followed by schools was accepted by both the parties. Once this was conceded, the foundation of the petitioner’s grievance ceased to exist, the Court said.
It further observed that even the Delhi School Education Act and the Delhi School Education Rules mandatorily required schools to follow the textbooks prescribed by the DoE for Classes I to VIII, and the textbooks prescribed by the CBSE in the case of Classes IX and above.
Section 29 of the Right To Education Act also confers power on the NCERT/SCERT to prescribe the textbooks for Classes I to VIII, the Court stated.
“This (The Circular) is merely a reiteration of the position which obtains from the DSE Act, the DSE Rules and the RTE Act. It cannot be said, by any stretch of imagination, that the DoE lacked the power, or the authority, to so specify and clarify what the law, otherwise, unambiguously dictates.”, it said.
Further stressing on the need of uniformity in the dissemination of education, the Court remarked,
“Students, in our country, constitute a homogeneous whole. Uniformity of dissemination of education, among them, is a necessity, in order that they march together, matching step for step, on the path of knowledge and learning, towards the creation of a new and vibrant Bharat, for the ages to come…Such uniformity would also obviate the requirement of monitoring the content of the material which individual schools may choose to teach their students.”
The Court, however, clarified that if any individual teacher desired to impart knowledge in addition to what is available in the prescribed textbooks, she would be at liberty to do so.
Therefore, the Court held the circular to be mandatory and legal.
The petitioner Federation was represented by Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra with Advocates Kumar Vaibhav, Aayushi Sharma and Manoj Kumar.
The Delhi government was represented by Additional Standing Counsel SK Tripathi with Advocates Rishabh Ostwal and Shashank Tiwari.
Read the Judgment: