Saturday, May 24, 2008


Surrounded by Mortuary, Coffin Shops, Open Dhalao (Garbage Disposal Bin) and Desi Liquor Shop, MCD Primary School, Bulevard Road, near Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi with 37 students of classes I to V, one teacher, unhygienic toilets, broken classroom door, dirty washbasin with broken tap, and unfinished blackboard is an example of utter neglect on the part of the government of their own schools. In other words, the government is violating with impunity the fundamental and human rights to education of the children of this country.

As a neighborhood school friend, I took the opportunity to visit this municipal school on 22.04.2006. The official school timings are 7.30 am to 12.30 pm. I reached the school at 8.30 am and found that all the students were just playing in the school compound and the Headmaster of the school was just sitting in a classroom and was busy with writing in a register, unmindful of what the students were doing. On that day, only 22 students were present in the school. On seeing me, he became alert and immediately called the students to assemble in the classroom. The students followed this directive and assembled in one classroom in which the Headmaster was sitting. As there is only one primary teacher posted in the school, all the primary classes are held in one classroom. A little later, I realized that the children were playing in the compound for the obvious reason that the solitary teacher had not yet come to the school. I just noted these facts in my diary. I also took photographs of all the students of different classes sitting in one classroom.

The Headmaster did not want to waste any more time. On one hand, he ordered the attendant for a cup of tea and some biscuits for me and on the other hand, he asked the students to line up in the corridor for Morning Prayer. On completing the Morning Prayer, the students were asked to do yoga exercises. It is interesting to note that the Headmaster who apparently did not know any thing about yoga was instructing the students to do yoga exercises. The Morning Prayer and the so-called yoga exercises lasted for about 10 minutes and all the children were again back in the classroom. It was now 9 am and the solitary teacher arrived in the school on the motorbike. I simply noted his arrival time in my diary.

The teacher was upset on seeing me in the school. After arrival of the teacher, the Headmaster asked the students of the classes IV and V to go to the other classroom. The students of classes I to III remained in the classroom where the Headmaster was sitting and the students of classes IV and V moved to the other classroom with the solitary teacher. The studies started in the classrooms. I stayed in the school for another half an hour and then left for my office.

This was my second visit to this neighborhood school. My first visit was on 04.03.2006. On that day, I had noted that the entire sewerage system in the school was in bad shape and there was a foul smell in the entire school premises. I also noted that three of the classrooms were used to store road repair material. The open dhalao was just in the front of the school gate. The garbage in the open dhalao was overflowing up to the gate of the school. On the same day, I brought to the notice of the school authorities about sewerage system and other problems noticed by me during my visit to the school. On my next visit on 22.4.2006, I found that the sewerage system was put to order and the road repair material was removed from the three classrooms.

All the students of the school belong to underprivileged sections of society. On 05.03.2006, I visited the locality from where these students come from and met the parents of some of these students. I found that though the parents had got their children enrolled in the school, they were indifferent to the education of their children. In such a situation, the students are totally dependent on the school. If the school authorities are also indifferent to the education of the students, one can imagine the fate of these students.

The school authorities cannot absolve themselves from their paramount responsibility of providing good quality education to the children merely for the reason that the parents are not taking interest in the education of their children. It is the constitutional mandate against the school authorities to device ways and means to ensure good quality education to all the children of this country. This school in the India’s Capital is lacking in all respects. The environment both in side and out side of the school is totally inappropriate for the education of the children.

The words in the preamble of the Constitution “ We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizen: Justice, social, economic and political: Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation” have no meaning for these children. Similarly, the social justice philosophy of the Constitution and the fundamental right to free and compulsory education guaranteed to every child under Article 21-A of the Constitution have no meaning for these children. What is ironical is that though these children get the opportunity to go to school but they are uncared.

The Supreme Court of India in a recent decision in case of State of Bihar vs Project Uchcha Vidya, Sikshak Sangh (2006) 2 SCC 545 observed, “Imparting of education is a sovereign function of the State. Article 21-A of the Constitution envisages that children of age group 6 to 14 have a fundamental right to education. Clause 3 of Article 15 of the Constitution envisages special protection and affirmative action for women and children.” The tale of this neglected school negates all claims of the government of providing education to the children of the masses and addressing the issue of child labour.

The government schools are the only hope for the children of the masses and therefore, these needs to be set right. Civil Society has not only the role but also an obligation to work for the betterment of the government schools and for complete abolition of child labour. The community intervention in the school education is the only mantra to improve these schools and to abolish the child labour.

By Ashok Agarwal


Ashok Agarwal, advocate and convenor of the NGO Social Jurists, believes in the principle, “Courts to people and people to courts”. In an exclusive interview with Smriti Kak, he talks about his journey in the echelons of justice.

A fervent desire to fight for the rights of society saw a student of BA walk into the courts as a trade union representative. That was in 1969, today having armed himself with a degree in Law, the same man dons the black robe to continue his fight.

Ashok Agarwal, advocate and convenor of the NGO Social Jurists, is convinced that as a lawyer it is his privilege and duty to take up the cause of the poor and the marginalised. His talisman, he asserts, is “courts to people and people to courts”.

Refusing to bow to the inertia that benumbs society at large, be it government offices or educational institutions, Mr Agarwal is steadfast that for every problem there is a solution.
Having assimilated the problems that ail civil society he takes refuge in the power that is rooted in the scales of justice, “Courts can be seen as the best platform for highlighting the cause and exposing the government to some extent,” he points out.

You have managed to take up issues that concern education and sought aid for the deprived sections. How did you decide to get involved in the cause?

Being a labour lawyer with a trade union background and fighting cases for the labour class and against the establishment for the last 33 years from the labour courts up to the Supreme Court, I have closely seen the plight of the labour class in this country. Through the introduction of public interest litigation (PIL), I got an opportunity to use judicial forums for ventilating the grievances of the common man, who is incapable of fighting for his rights directly.

I filed my first PIL in 1978, in the High Court of Delhi, highlighting the delay in appointment of the Presiding Officers of the Labour Courts/ Industrial Tribunals in Delhi and also shortage of other staff in these courts, causing immense delay in adjudication of industrial disputes.
When parents under the banner of Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh came out on the roads in 1997, protesting against arbitrary and unjustified fee hike by unaided recognised private schools in Delhi, I offered them free professional services and took up their matter with the High Court.
While I was preparing the PIL against exorbitant fee hike by so-called public schools, I found that one of the main causes of exploitation of parents by these schools is the continuous deterioration in the standard of education in the government schools.

This is when I decided to take up the cause of the children studying in government schools. In December 1997, I filed a PIL highlighting the absence of basic amenities like drinking water, toilet blocks, electricity, pucca building, boundary walls etc in Delhi government and MCD-run schools, which was a violation of the fundamental right to education as guaranteed by the Constitution.

What laid the ground for NGO Social Jurists?

Social Jurists is an unregistered and non-funded organisation of a group of lawyers. Members of this group, besides doing their professional work, devote themselves to the cause of the weaker sections. We are clear that we are doing it as our duty and not as charity. We don’t accept any money in any manner from anybody for taking up these causes.

We pay from our own pockets because we believe in making friends. We go to people, befriend them, identify their problems and examine what can be legally done for them. Once we are convinced that taking up their cause in the courts can solve their problem, we prepare and file PIL in the name of Social Jurists.

We also try to educate people on how to fight for their rights. We are convinced that courts alone cannot solve all problems of the people and, ultimately, people have to fight their own battle. We are using court orders for empowering the people to understand that authorities can be moved if rights are asserted and fought for.

The Public Interest Litigation filed by Social Jurists have resulted in favourable judgements for the people and the society at large. What have been, according to you, the most memorable and also the toughest cases so far?

Cases pertaining to fee hike by unaided recognised private schools, absence of total basic amenities in relocated resettlement colonies, free beds for poor in Apollo Hospital and Lal Kuan fire tragedy are the most memorable and also the toughest cases so far.

You have fought for the rights of the people living in resettlement colonies and for the rights of rag pickers. Working with the government departments and making your way through the red tape must have been quite an experience.

Yes, but my experience is that if right issues are taken up with honesty, forcefully and strategically, even people who constitute the government are moved. There are lots of good people in the government who want to work but are not allowed to work. Court interventions help them work. Reputation of an activist also influences the officers’ approach.

Court’s intervention, highlighting of the issue by the media and formation of public opinion has really worked in pressuring the government to respect the rights of the common man. Poor people feel empowered when they see that the court takes the government to task.

You have earned respect and acclaim as a crusader for providing people what is their due, how did you deal with the pressure and even threats that you must have encountered on the way?

I have never bothered about the pressures and the threats. If your are strong and determined no one dares to threaten you. I have been threatened just once by a police officer, who threatened to arrest me because I was leading a community demonstration at MCD school, Hastsaal Resettlement Colony. We were protesting against horrible conditions in the school.
When the entire community offered to court arrest alongside me, the police officer withdrew the threat and started showing sympathy with the agitators. My experience is that when you fight for the people in right way and for right cause, even your opponent has to appreciate you.
You recently organised a seminar to discuss the concerns of the Common School System. You have been interacting with not just academics, but also other stakeholders. What is your evaluation about the CSS and the Education Bill?

Establishment of CSS is a must for giving socio-economic and political justice to the people. The Education Bill is totally defective and must be rejected by the people. The Education Bill is totally contrary to the object underlying therein. Government must redraft the Education Bill on the basis of good quality Common School System.

What are your concerns as a lawyer about the legal profession?

Friends in the legal profession are a very powerful segment of the society. Now, the composition of legal profession is not the same as it was 20-30 years ago. A large number of friends in legal profession are from economically weaker sections of society and they can do wonders in changing the society if they devote some of their time for the cause of the poor, but as a privilege and duty and not as charity.

For the common man courts and lawyers are best kept at a distance. Your comment?

It is not correct. The lawyers’ major income comes from the pockets of the common man. Lawyers and courts look at common man as only consumers of justice and not as citizens of the country who are equally entitled to share the wealth of this country. Lawyers have a duty towards the common man.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


361 unaided private schools in Delhi have been allotted land by public bodies like DDA and L&DO on throw away prices with a condition to admit to the extent of 25% children belonging to weaker sections and grant them freeship. The social obligation flowing from the allotment letter and backed by the law has throughout been violated with impunity by the schools and the authorities responsible for ensuring compliance thereof have remained mere mute spectators. The utter criminal negligence on the part of the authorities and unwarranted profits by the schools led to the denial of the benefit of admission and freeship to the extent of 1,50,000 students belonging to the underprivileged sections. One of the facets of this social obligation clause is to minimize the social gap between the rich and the poor that is essential for an egalitarian society. The demand for the implementation of this social obligation clause is in fact a fight for social justice.

The issue though had been, of and on, appearing in the newspapers but no concrete step was ever taken to put it in action. During the pendency of a Public Interest Litigation (1997-1998) relating to arbitrary fee hike by the unaided private schools, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court directed DDA to furnish details of the schools to whom they had allotted land on throw away prices. In compliance of such directions, the DDA furnished details of 265 societies/trusts to whom land was allotted for construction of the schools. Based on this material information, the Social Jurist filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on 17th may 2002 in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court highlighting the facts that there are more than 1500 unaided recognized private schools in Delhi and more than 1200 of these schools have been allotted land on throw away prices.

The Social Jurist submitted that one of the objects behind it was that such schools discharge their social obligations to provide free education to a certain percentage of children belonging to weaker sections through their schools. It was also submitted that in case of most of the schools, an express condition that they shall ensure admission to the children belonging to weaker section to the extent of 25% and will grant them freeship. However, in some cases though it has been said in the allotment letter “ that the society shall ensure percentage of freeship from the tuition fee as laid down under
rules are strictly complied with” but the rules have not so far being framed either by the Delhi Development Authority or the Delhi Government in this regard leaving such schools to exploit the situation against public interest. However, it was understood that the authorities have obtained an undertaking from all the schools at the time of allotment of land to the effect that they would ensure admission to the children of the weaker section to the extent of 25% and grant them freeship.

The Social Jurist submitted that, unfortunately, none of these schools has complied with the aforementioned conditions of allotment and the authorities were totally insensitive and apathetic towards the rights of the downtrodden, as they had not taken any action against erring schools. It was submitted that the actions/inactions of the government as well as of the land owning agencies were adversely effecting fundamental right to education of the children of the masses which were guaranteed to them under Articles 21, 38, 39 (c) & (f), 41, 45, 46, 51 (b) & (f) read with Delhi School Education Act, 1973, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

That even after filing of the above PIL and notices having been issued to the Government of Delhi and Delhi Development Authority, these authorities did not take any action to implement the aforementioned social clause against the erring schools. On the other hand, the Government as well as the land owning agencies adopted dilatory tactics to frustrate the very object and purpose of the PIL.

However, on Jan 20, 2004, the Hon’ble High Court decided the PIL holding, “Thus, it is very clear that 25% of the students belonging to poor sections are entitled to get admission and free ship in such schools. However, it would be for the Directorate of Education to investigate the matter and to point out to the DDA wherever a breach is committed. If there are no rules for admission framed in this regard, it would be for the Directorate of Education to see that the rules are framed so that the weaker sections of the society may not suffer. It is hoped that within a period of four months this exercise shall be carried out and, after the DDA is informed, it will be the duty of the DDA to take appropriate action against any school committing breach of the condition. A compliance report be filed by the Directorate of Education after four months. “

That on 27.04.2004, the Delhi Government issued a circular detailing the eligibility criteria, method and manner of admission of children from Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the unaided private schools. On the same date, the Delhi Government also issued public advertisements in all the leading newspapers detailing the particulars of the schools that were obliged to follow the social obligation clause. This paved the way for enlightening the parents to approach the schools for admission of their wards under EWS category. It is needless to say that the Government took these steps only when the Social Jurist again approached the Hon’ble High Court complaining that the government has been given four months time to carry out exercise of investigating the matter and pointing out to the DDA wherever the breach was committed, but the process of such exercise had yet not started though a period of nearly three months had already elapsed. On the same day, one more important event took place. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in another case directed the Government to ensure the compliance of this social obligation clause against the concerned unaided private schools.

The schools reacted very insensitively. In order to oppose the entire move, the schools did not hesitate even arguing that the children of the weaker sections, if allowed to be integrated, they would spoil the school environment. They even went to the extent of provoking the parents of the fee paying students to oppose the move saying that such children, if allowed to sit with their children, would adversely affect the well-being of their children. Interestingly, the schools could not find even a single genuine parent standing in their support to oppose the move. The parents were wise enough to realize the advantages of such integration on one hand and the ulterior motives of the schools on the other hand.

During the academic years 2004-05 and 2005-06, few thousands admissions of the children under EWS category took place. Most of the schools did not adhere to the social obligation clause at all. The Hon’ble High Court at one point of time was so angry with the erring schools that it ordered show-cause notices to a hundred such schools as to why their schools should not be closed down. The regular monitoring by the Hon’ble High Court, persistent efforts of the parents and the support of Right to Education Task Force (RETF) are the leading factors in the present fight for social justice.

During these two academic years, the parents/children had both good and bad experiences. Some of the schools well behaved with the children whereas some others maltreated and discriminated them. The Hon’ble High Court in order to ensure dignified treatment to these children directed the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi to hold meeting and to resolve all the issues. The Hon’ble Chief Minister constituted two committees, one headed by Prof. Krishna Kumar to suggest modalities of admission and other headed by Prof. Janaki Rajan to suggest measures for sensitizing the school management/staff. These two Committees submitted their reports to the Hon’ble Chief Minister and thereafter, the government has issued Delhi School Education (Free Seats for Students belonging to Economically Weaker Sections) Order, 2006 detailing the eligibility modality and manner of admission.

The parents from EWS category are very much excited to get their children admitted in the unaided schools and to avail the benefit of freeship. They are finding it very difficult but not impossible to get their children admitted in unaided schools. All the Sub-Divisional Magistrates offices, which are required to issue family income certificates for this purpose, are witnessing parents in large number applying for such certificates. Once, a Sub-Divisional Magistrate personally complained to me that this provision has tremendously increased his workload and he has to sign 2000 such certificates every month.

Prof. Nalini Juneja from NUEPA contributed in our efforts by providing details on the social issue from the research paper of NUEPA. Her writings were the guiding force for us to present the parents/children viewpoint everywhere including before the Hon’ble High Court and the Committees etc. The schools started separating classes for the children of EWS, frustrating the basic purpose of the inclusive education. The battle was to be fought out of the court also as the parents from EWS approaching the schools were denied the facilities on one pretext or the other. The Right to Education Task Force (RETF) was formed to help the parents and bringing their complaints to the notice of the authorities and the Hon’ble Court. It is needed to expand the scope of this movement in other cities also so that the basic purpose of social justice could be achieved.

All Godmen are Fake

I agree with the Kerala Minister that "All Godmen are Fake". All human beings are only human beings. The innocent people are the victims. ashok agarwal,advocate

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Arjun Singh assures education bill in monsoon session

New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) Union Minister for Human Resource Development Arjun Singh Saturday assured a delegation led by Shanta Sinha, chairperson National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) that the right to education bill will be passed in the monsoon session. According to the bill, every child between 6 to 14 years of age will have the right to free and compulsory education.

"We have approached the minister for tabling the right to education bill in parliament soon. And he assured us that the bill will be tabled in the coming monsoon session," said Ashok Agarwal, who was member of the delegation.

The delegation included Mridula Mukherjee, director of the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, and Amarjeet Kaur from the All India Trade Union Congress.
According to the bill, government schools shall provide free education to all children and private schools will admit at least 25 percent children in their schools without any fee.

"The bill is important because it is the first step in the direction of the government's active role in ensuring implementation of the constitutional amendment," said Agarwal.
-May 4th, 2008 - 7:26 pm ICT by admin

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Indian Govt. Hospitals sans anti-rabies vaccine‏


The Principal Secretary (Health)
Government of NCT of Delhi
Secretariat, I.P. Estate.
New Delhi-110002.

Sub: absence of anti-rabies vaccine in Delhi Govt.
and MCD run Hospitals in Indian Capital

Dear Sir,

It is brought to your kind notice that I have received a complaint on telephone today from Mr. Ramesh Kumar r/o H. No- 147, Village Badli, Delhi (M-9213532168) that his 12 years old son Akash Yadav was bitten by a stray dog early in the morning today. He first rushed to the govt. dispensary in Sector – 18 near Badli village, then to the to B.R. Ambedkar Hospital, Rohini, then to Babu Jagjivan Ram Memorial Hospital, Jahangirpuri, then to Hindu Rao Hospital where he was advised to go to Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital as none of the aforesaid hospitals were having the availability of anti-rabies vaccine. At the time of writing this letter, the patient is on his way to Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and I am not sure if he really gets treated there.

It is a serious matter as it involves violation of fundamental right to health of the citizens.

Kindly look into this matter on urgent basis.

Thanking you

With regards
Ashok Agarwal, Advocate
Advisor, Social Jurist

“My father bled, no one came to help”

8 Apr 2008, 0241 hrs IST , TNN

NEW DELHI: Forty-seven-year-old Arun Gupta, a businessman who was shot in the neck, died of his injuries after battling for life for nearly three hours on Monday morning. In fact, his son, Harshal, has alleged that the first hour — considered to be the golden hour for such victims — was spent in rushing him from one hospital to another which turned him down though a prominent hospital has denied any such incident.

According to two SC judgments, no doctor or hospital can deny life-saving emergency treatment to a patient. In two landmark judgments — Parmanand Katara vs Union of India and Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti vs State of West Bengal — the Supreme Court upheld every person's right to life. In Parmanand Katara Vs Union of India, the victim was seriously injured in a road accident and was in need of immediate treatment. As it was a medico-legal case, most hospitals refused to treat him until police arrived. The victim later died of his injuries.

In the second case, one Hakim Shaikh, a member of the Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samiti, fell off a train and suffered serious head injuries and haemorrhage. He was taken to more than eight medical institutions, where he was refused admission either on grounds of lack of facilities or of no vacancy. It was only the next day that he received treatment.

"In Parmanand's case, Supreme Court held that all doctors — both in government and private — have a professional obligation to treat emergency cases to protect life. In the Paschim Banga case, the SC held that lack of financial resources couldn't be a reason to deny treatment. It is every patient's right to get emergency treatment," said Ashok Aggarwal, a lawyer in Delhi High Court.

Agrees Dr Dilpreet Brar, chief administrator, Max Healthcare: "No hospital can deny treatment to an emergency case. The patient has to be given basic life-saving treatment. The patient is first treated and we start the MLC procedure side by side."

"Most accident cases are brought either by police or a third party and maximum cases come to government hospitals. Though no hospital can deny treatment to an emergency case, some hospitals are reluctant in taking MLC cases due to various financial reasons," said Dr D K Sharma, medical superintendent, AIIMS.

So if someone like Gupta is in need of surgery and is not accompanied by any relative or police, would the hospital take him for surgery? "Yes, if the surgery is needed to save his life...The MLC proceedings are started simultaneously," said Dr Rajeev Malhotra, vice-president, medical services, Rockland Hospital.