OPEN LETTER TO SHRI SHANTI BHUSHAN
Respected Shanti Bhushan ji,
We wish to bring to your notice a peculiar situation which has arisen in Lucknow. We know that you've been a lawyer for the Founder Manager Jagdish Gandhi of City Montessori School in Lucknow for over three decades and realise that as a lawyer your ethical commitment is to defend your client.
The Basic Shiksha Adhikari of Lucknow has ordered admission of 31 children, including 23 SC and 8 Muslims, 6 of whom belong to OBC category, to CMS under Section 12 of the Right to Education Act, 2009. However, Shri Jagdish Gandhi and his daughter Geeta Gandhi Kingdon, President of CMS, have refused to admit these children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections to the Indira Nagar branch of their school. Jagdish Gandhi went to the High Court claiming that they don't have physical space in their school and questioned why the BSA ordered admission to their school when there were other government and private schools closer to the homes of the children. On High Court's order BSA visited the school and found that there is enough space in the school and the court has taken a view that even if other schools are there the parents have a right to seek admission to a school of their choice according to the law. The court ordered the BSA to find out how many children lived in the neighbourhood of the school, as required by the law. Upon measuring the distances from their homes it turned out that 14 out of 31 children lived within a km of the school, which is the definition of neighbourhood as prescribed by U.P. government rules. The HC ordered admission of these 14 children to CMS on 6th August, 2015. Socialist Party (India) is involved with this struggle to get children admitted to school under RTE.
Your appearance for a truant school in the HC (first on hearing on 30 July and then on first hearing of appeal against the court order directing CMS to admit 14 children within a week on 12 August, 2015) not only emboldens a person bent upon violating a national law and who holds court order in contempt but also weakens our fight for social justice. The RTE Act, for the first time in this country since economic policies of privatization, liberalization and globalization have been implemented is an attempt to bridge the ever widening gap between the children of rich and poor and gives a chance to government to regulate the private schools to ensure compliance of various laws and norms. The outlaw school's founder manager and president and a weak government have colluded to deny children from socio-economic weaker background their legal right and an opportunity to transform their lives by receiving education available to only the elite in the country. Your appearance in HC is unfortunately strengthening the forces which have made quality education for underprivileged children a distant dream in this country and are preventing the implementation of long standing demand of common school system.
We cannot request a person of your stature not to help your client but can only make an appeal to you to think of the larger cause of universalization of primary education which is at stake and then take a decision based on your conscience.
Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party (India), firstname.lastname@example.org