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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Delhi government will challenge High Court order on school fee hike

According to the government, the condition was part of the agreement that the government had made with such schools at the time of allotting land.

delhi Updated: Mar 17, 2019 00:10 IST
Fareeha Iftikhar
Fareeha Iftikhar
New Delhi
The Delhi government on Saturday said it would challenge the Delhi high court’s ruling setting aside its order barring private unaided schools built on public land from unilaterally hiking fees.
The Delhi government on Saturday said it would challenge the Delhi high court’s ruling setting aside its order barring private unaided schools built on public land from unilaterally hiking fees.(HT File Photo)
         

The Delhi government on Saturday said it would challenge the Delhi high court’s ruling setting aside its order barring private unaided schools built on public land from unilaterally hiking fees.

According to the government, the condition was part of the agreement that the government had made with such schools at the time of allotting land.

The alleged failure to comply with the government’s order to revoke the hike had cost one school — Mount Carmel in Dwarka — its recognition.

On Friday, a single-judge bench of Justice C Hari Shankar of the high court quashed the department of education (DoE) order of April 13, 2018, whereby it had directed that any private, unaided, recognised school running on land allotted by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) or any other government agency, could not increase their fees without the prior permission of the directorate.

The government order to derecognise Mount Carmel School in Dwarka too was set aside. Officials from the school could not be reached for comment.

As many as 325 private schools, including some popular ones, are built on the government land in the city. Officials at the DoE said that as per the land lease of these schools, they cannot make changes in the tuition fee.

However, the schools can revise their other charges such annual charges and co-curricular activities.

“The schools are entitled to complete autonomy in the matter of fixation of their fees and management of their accounts, subject only to the condition that they do not indulge in profiteering, and do not charge capitation fee, thereby “commercialising” education. There is no requirement for the school to take “prior approval”, of the DoE, before enhancing its fees. The only responsibility, on the School, is to submit its statement of fee, as required by Section 17(3) of the Delhi State Education act (to the DoE),” the court said in its 173-page judgment, a copy of which released on Saturday afternoon.

The court’s decision came on a plea by the action committee of unaided recognised private schools challenging the DoE order April 13, 2018.

The plea had contended that the decision of the Delhi government would lead to a delay in schools implementing the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendations. The plea had said that this could also lead to the resignation of several teachers who had not received a salary raise.

Department of education director Binay Bhusan said that the department would file an appeal in the court, challenging the decision.

“There has to be some monitoring of the fee charged by the private schools. How can the DoE know that if the schools are indulged in commercialisation and profiteering without auditing their finances?” he said, adding the DoE was still examining the order and discussing the options with its legal team.

The department of education in its October 17, 2017, had allowed the schools for an “interim fee hike” up to 15% in line with the 7th pay commission’s recommendations provided they get their financial accounts audited by the government in a fixed period of time.

The order was withdrawn by the government on April 13, 2018, saying that the schools would have to obtain prior permission from it before increasing their fees and any hike would be permitted only after an audit of the schools’ accounts.

A senior official at the DoE said that the department has already rejected the “fee hike” request of over 150 schools after auditing their accounts.

“During the audit, it was found that around 150 schools had surplus funds and there was no requirement of the fee hike. We have already rejected their request,” said the official.

Advocate Kamal Gupta, who represented the action committee of unaided recognised private schools in the case,
said that the audit was done for the year 2017-18.

“Following the court’s order the 325 schools build on the state’s land will be allowed to immediately start charging increased fee with effect from academic session 2018-19. The audits done by the DoE of few schools were for the session 2017-18,” he said.

The Delhi Parents’ Association (DPA) on Saturday also said that it would file an appeal with two-judge bench, challenging the verdict.

“How will parents bear this burden? We are also examining the court’s order and will soon file an appeal with a two-judge
bench in the Delhi High Court,” Aparajita Gautam, president of DPA, said.

The development has created confusion and tension among parents.

“We have no clarity on what has happened in the court on Friday. If the schools will be allowed to increase the fee it will be a very difficult situation for us parents. How will be bear the additional cost of education,” said Ajay Patnaik, parent of a class 8 student at a school built on DDA land in east Delhi.

First Published: Mar 17, 2019 00:10 IST

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