All India Parents Association (AIPA)
Agarwal Bhavan, G.T. RoadTis Hazari, Delhi-110054
Dear Parents/Parents Associations,
It is interesting to note that the parents all over the country have raised voices against inaction on the part of the State Governments to check the menace of commercialization of education in unaided private schools. In 1997, on the pretext of 5th Pay Commission Recommendations, the unaided private schools in Delhi increased fee and other charges ranging from 40% to 400%. This gave rise to unrest amongst the middle class parents and the parents organized themselves against the arbitrary fee hike by the unaided private schools. Needless to say that a PIL was filed in 1997 in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court which was decided on 30.10.1998 in favour of the parents. The High Court laid down the criteria and guidelines of fixing a reasonable fee structure in an unaided private school. The High Court also held that the Government is not only empowered but also has a duty to regulate fee of such schools to prevent commercialization of education and exploitation of parents/students. The schools filed appeals before the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the High Court decision which was dismissed on 27.04.2004. The schools took another opportunity through filing a review petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court seeking review of Supreme Court decision of 27.04.2004. Fortunately, the Supreme Court also dismissed the review petition on 07.08.2009.
In 2008, on the pretext of 6th Pay Commission Recommendations, the unaided private schools all over the country hiked fee and other charges exorbitantly and arbitrarily while Central and State Governments were just mute spectators to the same. This time, the parents all over the country organized themselves to a larger extent and openly protested against the schools and the governments. The parents associations in many part of the country approached their respective High Courts by way of filing writ petitions. The agitation by the parents in some States led the State Governments to issue certain directives to check the arbitrary fee hike. The school managements have filed writ petitions against such directives in their respect State High Courts. A PIL filed by the Parents in Delhi High Court is being heard on day to day basis and is expected to be concluded soon.
Friends, I wish to submit that though the parents are now better aware of their rights qua unaided private schools but the schools are very adamant to continue to exploit the parents and the students by subjecting them to pay unjustified fee and other charges. The State of Tamil Nadu has enacted Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2009. Some of the relevant provisions of the said Act are reproduced as under:
Section 3(2) - No fee in excess of the fee determined by the committee under this Act shall be collected for admission of pupils to any standard or course of study in a private school.
Section 5(1) - The Government shall constitute a committee for the purpose of determination of the fee for admission to any Standard or course of study in private schools. Section 5(2) - The committee shall consist of the following members, namely: -(a) a retired High Court Judge, nominated by the Government. -Chairperson;(b) Director of School Education. -Ex-officio Member;(c) Director of Matriculation Schools. -Ex-officio Member; (d) Director of Elementary Education. -Ex-officio Member; (e) Joint Chief Engineer (Buildings) Public Works Department. -Ex-officio Member;(f) Additional Secretary to Government,School Education Department. -Ex-officio Member Secretary.”Section 6 - (1) The committee shall determine the fee leviable by a private school taking into account the following factors, namely: -(a) the location of the private school; (b) the available infrastructure;(c) the expenditure on administration and maintenance;(d) the reasonable surplus required for the growth and development of the private school;(e) any other factors as may be prescribed.
(2) The committee shall on determining the fee leviable by a private school, communicate its decision to the school concerned.
(3) Any private school aggrieved over the decision of the committee shall file their objection before the committee within fifteen days from the date of receipt of the decision of the committee.
(4) The committee shall consider the objection of the private school and pass orders within thirty days from the date of receipt of such objection.
(5) The orders passed by the committee shall be final and binding on the private school for three academic years. At the end of the sad period, the private school would be at liberty to apply for revision.
(6) The committee shall indicate the different heads under which the fee shall be levied.
Section 7 –The powers and function of the committee shall be: -(a) to determine the fee to be collected by private school;(b) to hear complaints with regard to collection of fee in excess of the fee determined by it or fixed by the Government, as the case may be. If the committee, after obtaining the evidence and explanation from the management of the private school or aided school concerned or from the Government school, comes to the conclusion that the private school or the Government school or aided school has collected fee in excess of the fee determined by the committee or fixed by the Government, as the case may be, it shall recommend to the appropriate competent authority for the cancellation of the recognition or approval, as the case may be, of the private school or aided school or for any other course approval, as the case may be, of the private school or aided school or for any other course of action as it deems fit in respect of the private school or Government school or aided school.
(2) The committee shall have power to: -(a) require each private school to place before the committee the proposed fee structure of such school with all relevant documents and books of accounts for scrutiny within such date as may be specified by the committee;
(b) verify whether the fee proposed by the private school is justified and it does not amount to profiteering or charging of exorbitant fee;
(c) approve the fee structure or determine some other fee which can be charged by the private school.
(3) The Committee shall have power to: - (a) verify whether the fee collected by the school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education; and
(b) to hear complaints with regard to collection of excess fee by a school affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education; and
(c) to recommend to the Central Board of Secondary Education for disaffiliation of the school, if it comes to a conclusion that the school has collected excess fee.(4) The committee shall have the power to regulate its own procedure in all matters arising out of the discharge of its functions, and shall, for the purpose of making any inquiry under this Act, have all the powers of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 while trying a suit, in respect of the following matters, namely: - (a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any witness and examining him on oath;
(b) the discovery and production of any document;
(c) the receipt of evidence on affidavits;
(d) the issuing of any commission for the examination of witness.
Section 8 - The Government may regulate the maintenance of accounts by the private schools in such manner as may be prescribed.
Section 9 - (1) Whoever contravenes the provision of this Act or the rules made thereunder shall, on conviction, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees.
Provided that the court may, for any adequate and special reason to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than three years.
(2) The person convicted under this section shall refund to the pupil from whom the excess fee was collected in contravention of this Act, such excess fee.
It appears that the Tamil Nadu Act is addressing parents concerns to a larger extent. However, the application of the said Act is limited to the State of Tamil Nadu. In other States, practically, there are no laws to deal with the fee hike problems. All India Parents Association (AIPA) has since long been demanding a Central Law to deal with the issue of commercialization in unaided private schools but the Central Government has not taken any step in this regard so far. It is the need of the hour that all the parents/parents bodies all over the country should write to the Prime Minister and the HRD Union Minister demanding immediate enactment of a Central Law, may be on the lines of the Tamil Nadu Act to check the commercialization of education in unaided private schools all over the country. We can also plan to hold a massive demonstration at Jantar Mantar at New Delhi in this regard sometimes in January, 2010.
Last but not the least, we should not forget that while fighting against the exploitation of the parents/students by the unaided private schools, we have to continue our fight for the up gradation of the standard of education in very government school to the minimum level of kendriya Vidayalays (Central Schools). Contact at email@example.com.
Ashok Agarwal, Advocate