The PUNJAB and Haryana High Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the Union government, calling its attitude “stepmotherly” towards Chandigarh. Referring to a number of ongoing cases between the UT administration and the Centre, the bench, comprising justices S S Saron and Darshan Singh, made some observations while hearing a case on fee regulation at private schools in the city.
“Chandigarh administration is not Pakistan administration. You are saying as if it is a foreign country. Will you tell us why there is an apathy on part of the central government towards UT,” the bench asked lawyers representing the Centre in the current case that came up for its sixth hearing on Wednesday.
The court made these observations while citing examples of financial issues of Panjab University and other such conflicts between the Centre and the UT administration. “We are not telling you about one case. We are asking you about a broader issue,” the court said.
During the hearing in the case pertaining to fee hike, the HC bench also came down hard on the UT administration after the Centre’s counsel told the court that the Directorate of School Administration had sent a proposal on the regulation of fee hike at private educational institutions to a wrong ministry for approval. The court observed that it has become the “work culture” of the UT administration to create bottlenecks in legal cases by such acts.
After a number of parents moved court on fee hike by private schools, the UT administration last month informed the bench that a letter was sent to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, seeking permission to extend the provisions of the Punjab Regulation of Fee of Unaided Educational Institution Act, 2016, to Chandigarh. The Act puts a cap of 8 per cent on the annual fee hike by private institutions.
“Why did you not know where it was to be sent. It is done by the UT administration in every case. Here you deliberately sent it to the wrong ministry,” the bench observed during the resumed hearing of a petition seeking directions to control arbitrary fee hike by private schools. “The intention is to create bottlenecks and delay so that some ‘jugaad’ comes up. It is the work culture of UT.”
The counsel for the Centre informed the court that the nodal department for UT matters is the Ministry of Home Affairs and not MHRD. “The Joint Secretary and Under Secretary is there (for UT). They immediately sent it (the letter) to the MHA,” a central government counsel told the court.
A petitioner, Ritesh Pandey, through his counsel, Dalbir Singh Pherumanm had approached the court in February, seeking directions on the arbitrary fee hike of private schools. Pandey had submitted that the schools have hiked the fee by 10 per cent this year, by clubbing development and tuition fees. Next hearing will be on May 24.