The court allowed the sale of both NCERT and non-NCERT books stating that 'it is discriminatory on the face of it as it cannot be denied that all these items including uniform, are essential requirements of the students'.
If the sale of books and uniforms in school shops is treated as “commercialization”, then there is no reason as to why sale of food in the canteen be not treated as the same, the Delhi High Court said on Monday as it declined to put a curb on the sale of stationary, uniforms and books at school shops affiliated under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).
The court allowed the sale of both NCERT and non-NCERT books stating that “it is discriminatory on the face of it as it cannot be denied that all these items including uniform, are essential requirements of the students.
It quashed the circular issued by the CBSE on April 19, 2017 which had directed the school affiliated under it to not to indulge in any commercial activity by way of selling of books, stationery, uniforms and School bags etc. within the school premises and to adhere to the provisions of Affiliation Bye-laws of the Board.
The Schools were further directed to desist from the unhealthy practice of coercing the parents to purchase books/uniform etc. from within the School premises or from selected vendors only.
Justice Rekha Palli said that “availability of uniform, non-NCERT reference books or even food items for sale only to the students of the school does not fall in the category of and cannot at all be considered as “commercialization”.
“If the sale of books and uniform in the school shops without any coercion on the students/parents to buy the same from these shops, is treated as “commercialization”, there is no reason as to why even the sale of food items in canteen facilities would also not be treated as commercialization,” the court said.
It also held that “the CBSE’s decision to prohibit the sale of items, merely on the premise that the availability of these items in the school shops for sale, could be misused as the students and parents could be forced to buy the same only from the School shop, appears to be wholly arbitrary and quite irrational”.
It admonished the board for not considering the relevant factors including student’s interest while issuing the circular banning the sale of items at schools.
“It appears that the Respondents while issuing the aforesaid circulars, have not at all considered the various relevant factors including the fact that it may be more in the interest of students that the option to buy books, both NCERT and non NCERT, stationery and uniform items from the school shops should be available to them,” the court held.
The court’s judgment comes while deciding two pleas, one filed by the Association of School Vendors challenging the circular issued by the CBSE of putting curbs on sale of items in school. The vendors had made representation to the CBSE following the orders of the court as they wanted some modification of the earlier circular.
They had sought that the circular be modified and the schools be directed to not coerce or force the parents to buy books from the ‘tuck shops’ at the school premise.
However, their representation was rejected prompting them to file the plea.
The second was filed by the Parents-Students Welfare Association against the CBSE challenging its circular of August 24-25 where the board had allowed the schools to open a ‘tuck shop’ where besides the sale of NCERT books, stationery and other materials, as required by the students, could also be sold.
This was a modification of the April circular issued by the CBSE.
The counsel for the Parents-Students Welfare Association had contended that the CBSE by permitting opening of “tuck shops” to sell NCERT books and stationery items in the school premise is promoting commercialization in the schools and thereby violating the statutory provisions of CBSE Affiliation Byelaws, RTE Act and Rules as also the DSEAR.
However, the court held that the circulars issued permitting sale in the school shops in any manner, cannot be said to be contrary to the statutory bye-laws and rules which prohibit commercialization.
“Once I have come to a conclusion that the sale of these items in the School, does not amount to any kind of commercialization, the issuance of the said circulars permitting the said sale in the school shops in any manner, cannot be said to be contrary to the statutory bye-laws and rules which prohibit commercialization,” the judge said.
The court rejected the contention of the CBSE challenging the locus of Association of School Vendors and said that more than the petitioners, the non-sale of NCERT books and uniforms is affecting the parents of the school going children as they are being deprived of opportunity to buy such books.