Delhi High Court seeks response from AAP government on plea challenging school fees reimbursement scheme for poor minority students

The petition said that scheme is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the constitution since it applies to poor students of only minority communities.
Delhi Government school
Delhi Government schoolImage for representative purpose

The Delhi High Court recently issued notice to the Delhi Government, its Directorate of Education and Delhi Minorities Commission on a plea challenging the scheme for reimbursement of school fees of poor students belonging to minority communities [Avinash Mehrotra v Government of NCT of Delhi & Ors].

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad directed the respondents to file their responses by January 13 when the case will be heard next.

The plea filed by a Chartered Accountant (CA) Avinash Mehrotra through advocates Awantika Manohar and Dhawesh Pahuja argued that the policy is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution since it provides for reimbursement of fees of only those students who belong to minority community and whose family income is less than ₹3 lakh per annum.

“Article 15(6) of the Constitution enables a State to create a special provision for economically weaker sections of society. It does not however permit the State to give a benefit only to economically weaker sections of society from particular religions or castes. Any benefit or provision enacted on the basis of the enabling provision Article 15(6) should apply and benefit all persons who are below a threshold income level, failing which such a policy is also unconstitutional,” the plea said.

It stated that a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in M Nagaraj v. Union of India had held that to justify any special provision for backward classes, the State must collect quantifiable data on the basis of which it must determine backwardness.

However, in the present case, no such exercise was carried out thereby making the policy violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India, the plea said.

The petition added that the only way to get over the Constitutional hurdle is by tweaking the policy insofar as it limits the benefit only to minority communities.

“If Reimbursement of fees is provided to all people who belong to low-income families, the policy would fall within the enabling provision which is Article 15(6). If, however, the same is not economically feasible for the Respondents, they would have no choice but to recall the impugned policy as the same does not fall within the four corners of the enabling provision found in Article 15,” the petition said.

[Read Order]

Avinash Mehrotra v Government of NCT of Delhi & Ors.pdf
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