What was the issue before the Court?
(Writ Petition Civil 2699/2016 and Civil Miscellaneous Application 11419/2016 before the Delhi High Court)
A young boy who had lost his leg in a motor vehicle accident and whose case was before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal received an order from the Tribunal directing his admission to Class I of the neighbouring Siddharth International Public School. The School approached the High Court saying that it was never consulted on this issue, and that for various reasons – including the fact that they did not have a barrier-free campus – the boy’s admission would lead to ‘disastrous consequences’ for general students who are already studying in Class I. Being a private school, the management argued that a school cannot be directed by any Court to either deploy special educators or provide barrier-free environment or hold classes for the physically challenged child on the ground floor only.
What did the Court rule?
(i) While the Tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction by passing this Order, the Court did not find merit with the arguments of the School on why the child’s admission as a child from a disadvantaged background was not permissible under the Right to Education Act and the Persons with Disabilities Act. The Court found that while there were seven students taken into Class I, 25% of the entire class strength was 8.5, and so there was one more seat available which could be given to this student
(ii) The Court refuted the argument of the School that there could be nothing mandated towards an accessible campus. The Court referred to the Social Jurist Judgment (discussed above) and also the provisions in Section 26 of the Persons with Disabilities Act that a child with disability has to have access to free education in an “appropriate environment”. It further held that facilities like barrier-free environment must be in place and cannot be deferred till the school decides to admit students with special needs
(iii) As for the School’s contention that the admission of this child would have ‘disastrous consequences’ for the general students already studying in Class 1, the Court held that this was ‘ill-founded’, and that, on the contrary, his “…admission would make the general students more sensitive and humane as they would appreciate the challenges faced by a student with disability and poverty”
What have been the developments since then?
It is not known whether this child was given a peaceful and meaningful inclusion in the school, but it is certainly hoped so.