Govt can't control fee structure of private unaided schools: Bombay HC

Mumbai, PTI | Updated : 09 July 2013, 11:12 AM

The Bombay High Court has held that government would have no say in controlling fee structure of private unaided schools, who do not get grant-in-aid but spend huge amount of money from their own funds to create facilities and extra-curricular activities for students.

Accordingly, the Court set aside an order passed by Education department of Maharashtra Government directing a private unaided school here to refund fees to a group of students from academic year 2006-07 to 2011-12 as the school did not get affiliation to ICSE.

Hearing a petition filed by Diamond Jubilee High School in Mazgaon, central Mumbai, justices S J Vajifdar and M S Sonak held that there was nothing to indicate that the petitioners (school authorities) had acted malafide.

The judges further said that the facts set out in the petition have not been disputed by the respondents. In fact, no counter has been filed by any of the respondents.

The judges opined that the right to establish an Educational Institution is a right guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and as such any restriction upon such right can be placed only by law enacted by legislature and not by a Circular or a Resolution issued under Article 162 of the Constitution of India.

The School had filed a petition challenging an order passed on November 27, 21012, by Principal Secretary, School Education and Sports Department of Maharashtra Government, asking the authorities to refund fees to students from academic year 2006-07 to 2011-12.

Diamond Jubilee High School, a minority educational institution, was affilitated to Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (SSCE Board) upto academic year 2006-07. The School was receiving aid from the Government till this period. However, thereafter it decided to decline aid and convert itself into a private unaided school.

The school resolved to convert affiliation from SSCE Board to ICSE, in respect of secondary section of the school, i.e from standard 'V' onwards. In this regard, the necessary permissions were applied for and obtained. The conversion was to take place progressively, which means that each year one higher class would stop receiving aid.

The school contended that it improved facilities from AY2007-08 onwards. The strength of teaching and non-teaching staff during 2006 to 2012 was increased from 72 to 114. Three well resourced and spacious laboratories and an equal number of libraries with amenities were set up.

The school said it had also set up two I.T Labs and Resource Centeres with more than 150 computers to provide each student with computer facility. Computer aided learning equipment were provided in each class room, which included 35 projectors and computer software for various subjects.

Besides, music room, yoga room, air-conditioned badminton-cum-basket ball court, squash court, table tennis room and outdoor volley ball-cum-basket ball court had been introduced for overall development of students.

A private house keeping agency was hired for the maintenance of school building and campus. Eleven security guards were employed for safety and security measures. Three Academic Consultants were engaged to help teachers, design and implement curricular and extra-curricular activities at the school during the said period, the petition further said.

The petition claimed that the improved and enhanced facilities involved investments without any aid either from the Government or the students/parents. An amount of Rs 11.79 crore (net of Government grants) was spent from the year 2007 to 2012 towards operating expenses excluding Depreciation.

According to the petition, the cumulative deficit incurred by the School during the period was approximately Rs 1.6 crore, in so far as the secondary section is concerned.

From 2000 to 2006, the average expenditure towards salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff of the secondary section including allowances was in the range of Rs 39.71 lakh per year. In contrast, the average expenditure for the same purpose from 2007 to 2012 was Rs 1.04 crore per year.

The maintenance expenses, which averaged Rs 88,000 per annum for the period 2000 to 2006 increased to about Rs 24.38 lakhs per year for the period 2007 to 2012. The school was relocated in new building premises in 2007 and considerable expense was incurred for the said purpose as well.

The school said that improved facilities had no direct nexus with proposed affiliation to ICSE Board and that these facilities were availed by students independent of school's affiliation with SSCE Board or ICSE Board.

On the aspect of affiliation to the ICSE Board, theschool pleaded that by their letter dated 12th January, 2008, they applied to the Council for affiliation and that though all the formalities were complied with by them, affiliation could not be obtained for reasons beyond their control.

Accordingly, for the period between 2007 to 2012, the school continued with its affiliation with the SSCE Board by seeking extensions from time to time.

On account of the school's inability to obtain affiliation with the ICSE Board between 19th May 2011 and 1st July, 2011, the authorities held several meetings with the parents and students of standard 'IX' to apprise them of the situation and the various options available to them.

Out of 85 students of standard IX, 12 students opted for admission to some other schools affiliated to ICSE Board and the school even facilitated the transfer of such students while the remaining 73 students opted to be with the same school which continued to be affiliated to SSCE Board.

Students, who opted to continue with the same school, however, made complaints to Education department with regard to the enhanced fee structure as the petitioners had not been able to secure affiliation with the ICSE Board.

The Education Inspector, in a communication, directed the petitioners to refund the enhanced fees charged during the year 2006 to 2012 and report compliance.

First Published: Tuesday, July 09, 2013 11:10 AM
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