Private schools built on the land allotted by the Delhi Development Authority will have to seek the government’s permission before hiking fee, the Supreme Court said on Monday, an order that brings relief to thousands of parents in the city.
The schools were bound by the lease agreement with the DDA, the Capital’s land developer, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar said, upholding a Delhi high court order challenged by the Action Committee of Unaided Private Schools.
“If the conditions say you need permission then you have to take it,” the bench told the schools’ body, rejecting its argument that the Delhi state education law provided them complete autonomy.
The order effects close to 400 private unaided schools, including some of the city’s biggest and popular institutes, and comes as a relief to parents often forced to accept hefty fee hikes they are rarely consulted on.
The order gives a boost to the Kejriwal government, which has tightened regulation of private schools and promised to crack down on indiscriminate fee hike.
Terming the order as historic, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the education portfolio, warned of strict action against schools failing to comply with the judgment.
Though these schools don’t get funds from the government, they have been given land on discounted rates, with some conditions that require them to take the permission of the directorate of education before raising the fee and set aside seats for poor students, among others.
Declaring that “schools cannot indulge in profiteering and commercialisation of education”, a high court bench of chief justice G Rohini and justice Jayant Nath had in January 2016 ordered DoE to ensure schools complied with the terms and conditions of their allotment regarding fee.
Challenging the verdict, the school association talked about an SC judgment that said private institutions should have absolute autonomy in the admission process, including on fee. But, the top court found no merit in the argument.
The DoE website lists Modern School, Barakhambha; DPS, RK Puram; Air Force Bal Bharti School, Lodhi Road, Amity International School, Saket and Sanskriti School, Chanakyapuri among the institutes built on DDA land.
Fee hike by private schools is a contentious issue in Delhi and often a subject of litigation.
In 2011, the HC set up a panel that identified hundreds of schools collecting excessive fee. In its latest report in December, the panel ordered 53 of them to refund parents.
The panel found that these schools had failed to pay their teachers and staff salaries as per the sixth pay commission, despite charging hefty fees.