Delhi High Court Threatens Contempt Action: Government Schools’ Textbook Shortage Sparks Warning

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court issued a warning of potential suo motu contempt of court action against the Deputy Director of the Education department due to the government’s lapse in providing textbooks to students in government-run schools. Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, presiding over a Division Bench, observed discrepancies between the government’s affidavit, promising textbook distribution by May 10, and a subsequent report indicating a delay until July.

The Bench strongly criticized the government for the delay, stating it was inappropriate to set a deadline and then fail to meet it. They emphasized the seriousness of the matter, warning of consequences. However, the Court refrained from issuing a notice after the Delhi government’s Standing Counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi assured that students would receive their books by July when schools reopened after summer vacations. Accordingly, the Court deferred the decision to issue a notice and scheduled further hearings for July.

The government attributed the delay in textbook distribution to changes in the syllabus. The Bench addressed this matter during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by an organization called Social Jurist, which highlighted the lack of infrastructure in government schools in the national capital. Advocate Ashok Agarwal represented the petitioner.

According to a report dated May 15, 2024, out of 7,073 schools, textbooks are still awaited in 4,215 schools (59.5%). The report also disclosed that although the total demand for textbooks in government schools is approximately 1.08 crore, only 23.25 lakh books (21.34%) have been provided so far.

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About the Author: Payal Singh