2 JULY 2023

3 Recent Social Judgements on Education and Gender from India’s Courts


From the High Court of Delhi - Students can get EWS reservation in any school that is not necessarily in their neighbourhood, but they may have to spend on transport costs from their own pocket

Facts of the Case

The EWS reservation in schools has been a heavily litigated topic.  In a recent case before the Delhi High Court on May 31, 2023  Tarun Kumar and Anr. v. The Principal Happy Hours and Ors. The question before the court was whether students who avail EWS/DG reservation in schools could only avail the same in their neighbourhood schools. A school rejected the admission of two students who were allotted EWS seats by the Directorate of Education on the ground that they lived 4 km away.


In 2019, the 103rd Amendment was made to the Constitution. This Amendment introduced reservation for economically weaker sections of the Indian population in education.

Since the introduction of the EWS category,  Section 12 (1) (c)  of the Right to Education Act, 2009 also reaffirmed reservation compelling all schools to reserve 25 percent of seats for financially and socially disadvantaged students.

Under Section 2 (e) of the Right to Education Act, 2009, a child is eligible for reservation in schools. under this category if their parent’s income is below the ceiling fixed by the respective State Government. For example, in Karnataka, the parents’ annual income should be less than 3.5 lakh.

Judgement Summary

In the Tarun Kumar case, the court observed that the EWS or DG category seats in schools are limited and the Directorate of Education might be compelled to allot seats in schools that are slightly farther from the student’s residence. The High Court noted that while the Directorate should endeavour to allot seats in the closest school possible, if it cannot do so, a school cannot reject the student merely because they don’t live in the same neighbourhood. The court also clarified that transportation costs should be borne by the students as the students lived in an area where the school was not providing transportation.

Impact of RTE on Private Schools

Section 2 (n) of the Right to Education Act, 2009 has defined the term “school” to include private and well as aided and government schools. Despite this, private schools have attempted to circumvent this provision. One such case was before the Delhi High Court on December 16, 2022, Rameshwar Jha v  Principal Richmond global School & Ors. In this case, the High Court came down strongly on schools asking the Directorate of Education to deregister schools that do not comply with the 25 % reservation for EWS/DG.

However,  in a case before the Karnataka High Court decided on May 31, 2019, RTE Students and Parents Association v. State of Karnataka & Ors., the allegations were made against the State Government of Karnataka which through a notification on January 30, 2019 excluded private schools from offering 25% reservations if there were government school and aided schools available within the neighbourhood. Under the RTE Act, the State Government is to reimburse to private schools the cost of students admitted on EWS quota. Reportedly INR 700 crore had been spent on the same for just the academic year 2018-19. To avoid this the Karnataka State Government  issued this notification. The Court ruled in favor of the Government stating that the right to free education is not violated by this notification as students admission in schools under EWS category still remains with only the choice of schools getting reduced. The Court also stated that the functioning of schools established by the government, local authorities and the aided schools would be at stake if the notification was scrapped. This case is now pending before the Supreme Court.

Further issues on the 25% reservation in EWS category surfaced when the Supreme Court  was hearing the case Md. Imran Ahmad v. Union of India & Ors during which it was pointed out that several states are yet to implement the 25% reservations under EWS category in private unaided schools . The Supreme Court directed that schools ensure the implementation of the Right To Education Act in letter and spirit, and that no child from the weaker sections are denied their right to education.

Supreme Court has recognized the inadequacy in number of Protection Officers under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005

Protection Officers are appointed under Section 8 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (“Act”) by the State Governments. They play a vital role in ensuring domestic violence complaints are reported to the Magistrate. They also assist in ensuring the women complainants are medically examined for injuries and make a safe shelter home available for them.

Rule 3 of the Domestic Violence Rules ,2006 states that a protection officer shall belong to the Government or to an NGO, preferably be a woman with three years of experience in the social sector. Protection Officers are to hold office for a minimum tenure of three years.

On February 24 2023, the Supreme Court while hearing the case of We the Women of India v. Union of India and Ors. found that the number of Protection Officers appointed in the States were grossly inadequate, resulting in the pendency of 4.41 lakh cases. This is just based on data from 801 districts collected by NALSA  in July 2022 indicating that the actual number of pending cases is significantly higher. The Ministry of Women and Child Development was directed by the court to convene a meeting with the Principal Secretaries of all the States and Union Territories to identify how they will ensure a steady supply to the cadre of Protection Officers. The Supreme Court also laid down points to be deliberated in the meeting such as the jurisdiction and the number of protection officers required for each district.

Supreme Court has directed the Central Government to frame National Policy on Menstrual Hygiene Products

A petition was filed in Jaya Thakur v. Union of India, requesting the Supreme Court to issue directions to the appropriate authorities to provide free sanitary pads to every female child studying in classes 6-12 and separate toilets for women in all government aided and residential schools.

On April 10 2023, the Supreme Court directed the respective State/Union Territories governments to submit the steps they will take to ensure that schools/school complexes with female students enrolled in their upper primary, secondary and higher secondary classes have sanitary pad vending machines installed AND institute an appropriate disposal mechanism to discard used pads.

The Supreme Court also directed the Centre to prepare standard operating procedures (SOPs) and formulate a national model to be adopted by all the states and Union territories for managing menstrual hygiene for school-going girls. The governments have been given three months to comply and the petition is listed for the next hearing on July 24, 2023.

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