Private schools should hike fee for quality education, not profit: Gujarat HC
The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday upheld the state government’s law regulating fees charged by private schoolseducation Updated: Dec 28, 2017 17:16 IST
Ahmedabad: In what comes as relief to the parents of around 37 lakh children, the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday said the state government’s law regulating fees charged by private schools was constitutionally valid.
Rejecting a bunch of around 40 petitions opposing the law, a division bench of chief justice R Subhash Reddy and justice V M Pancholi upheld the Gujarat Self Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act, 2017.
The court also rejected the demand by schools to stay the implementation of the Act while they file an appeal.
Upholding the Act as well as the rules framed under it, the division bench gave the schools six weeks to approach a “competent authority” to make a representation requesting modification of the rules if they wished to.
Private schools can submit proposals -- with details of their income and expenditure -- to the Fee Regulatory Committee set up under the Act if they want to increase the fees beyond the cap prescribed in the Act, said the court.
The court gave them three weeks to put these proposals before the Fee Regulatory Committee.
Such a fee hike should be for improving the quality of education and not for profiteering by charging exorbitant fees, the court said.
The HC rejected the contention of the CBSE-affiliated schools and those run by minority institutions that the state government has no power to regulate them.
The state legislature has the power to make laws for schools affiliated to the state board, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) as well as the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), the judges said.
The high court also rejected a petition filed by the schools run by minority institutions which opposed the law, saying they are already regulated by both the CBSE and the National Commission for Minorities.
They were protected under Article 30 of the Constitution which determines the rights of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, these schools had said, seeking to be outside the purview of the fee regulation act.
The high court also didn’t entertain a demand by a parents organisation that a representative of parents should be part of the fee regulatory committee.
The Gujarat Self Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act came into force in April 2017.
The bill, introduced by the BJP government in the last Budget session, said it intended to control “exorbitant fees” charged by private schools.
The fees prescribed in the Act for primary, secondary and higher secondary schools are Rs 15,000, Rs 25,000 and Rs 27,000 per year, respectively.
If the schools want to charge more, they need to submit a proposal to the fee regulatory committee.
The Act provides for a fee regulatory committee each for four zones, based in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot.
Managements of several private, minority-run as well as CBSE and ICSE schools had approached the court against the law, saying it was unconstitutional.
Jubilant parents burst fire crackers to celebrate the court verdict at some places in the state today. But schools are considering moving the Supreme Court.
“There are still several discrepancies in the Act and we are facing lots of difficulties in running our schools. We would meet to discuss plans about approaching the Supreme Court soon,” said Jatin Bharad, vice chairman of the state private schools association.
Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, who held the education portfolio in the previous government when the law was brought in, hailed the ruling as “historic” and a torch-bearer for other states.
“This would benefit 37 lakh parents...We are determined to implement the law in the strictest possible way. If schools are found guilty, the law even allows us to cancel their licences,” said Chudasama.
The opposition Congress said the law should have been introduced 10 years ago. “It was the BJP government which allowed such schools to rob people all these years,” said Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi.