A day after the controversial government resolution (GR) for regulating the fee structure of private unaided schools came into force, the Bombay High Court restrained the state from taking any penal action against schools for not following the GR.
“The government should not ordinarily interfere in school administration unless there is complaint of unreasonableness with respect to school fee hike,” said the division bench of Justice D.K. Deshmukh and Justice R.P. Sondurbaldota.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Unaided Schools Forum and Association of International Schools and Principals’ Foundation.
The associations have challenged the GR dated July 15 saying it curtailed the autonomy of private unaided schools and violated their fundamental right to administer the institutes as per their own vision.
Through the GR, the state has introduced a mechanism for fixing fees of private unaided schools ahead of the academic year, and the schools are prohibited from charging higher fees without approval from committees headed by the regional deputy directors of education.
Their counsel, Farul Devitre, argued that changing the entire system for fixing fees through the GR was contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision in the TMA Pai Foundation case where the court curtailed the scope of governmental regulation in the working of unaided schools.
Devitre said it was unclear which powers the state had issued the GR under. “They seem to have adopted the norms for aided schools for unaided schools,” Devitre said.
Government pleader Dhairsheel Nalawade tried to justify the GR saying, “The government did not intend to interfere with the schools’ administration, and the move was only to regulate the fees and not to fix fee structures.”
Nalawade said the idea was to ensure there was no profiteering and that schools did not charge capitation fees.
The judges adjourned the further hearing on the petitions for two weeks after Nalawade sought time to file an affidavit in reply.
The associations say the right of schools to fix fees was an essential part of their autonomy and the fees could be regulated without insisting on pre-approval of the fee structure.