A committee formed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court has slammed a private unaided school in Ludhiana which wrote ‘fee defaulter’ remarks on answer sheets of students, whose parents had refused to pay tuition fee that had been hiked beyond the 10 per cent a year, as permitted by it. The fee committee for the private unaided schools, chaired by Justice Amar Dutt (retd), has also ordered the Bal Bharti Public School, Ludhiana, to refund the ‘excess fee’ it has taken from parents.
The committee made the ruling on February 29, on a complaint filed by the parents association led by Inderpal Singh Chawla in 2014, after the ‘Fee Defaulter’ remark was written by the teachers on answer sheets of the students.
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“It is clear that children were humiliated after it was indicated on their answer sheets that they were fee defaulters. In this manner, the school is resorting to publicly admonishing the child which has an extremely dangerous impact on the mind of the child. The school has not denied the allegation but argued that issue of behaviour towards student is not in the purview of the committee. But the committee is of the view that such admonishing, derogatory and discriminating behaviour adopted by the school towards the tender age students does reduce the quality of education,” the high court-appointed panel has ruled.
Defending its fee defaulter remark, the school in its reply had argued that its behaviour with students does not fall under the purview of the fee committee. But to this, the committee noted that any act which degrades the quality of education does fall in its jurisdiction and that acts which demoralise students cannot be allowed.
According to the complaint, the school had increased annual charges by 40 per cent, from Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000, for the 2013-14 session; and then by 22 per cent to Rs 8,200 in 2014-15. Likewise, it also increased tuition fee (quarterly) from 5,445 to 6,900 (a 27 per cent rise for 2013-14) and then 15 per cent to 7,740 for 2014-15.
Other charges included Rs 300 per annum for stationary; Rs 300 per annum for chip-based I-cards; Rs 390 per quarter for smart classes; Rs 500 per annum as medical charges; computer charges of Rs 150 per quarter and Rs 1000 (without any receipt) for extra counselling. The committee also noted that new admission cost Rs 25,000 and that the promised facilities were not being provided to the students.
Ordering the school to refund hiked charges, roughly around Rs 3 crore, the high court committee orders said, “After taking into account the various variables, even the increase of annual charges from Rs 2,500 in 2010-11 to Rs 8,500 in 2014-15, which has not been denied by the school, the same is not required to be more than 10 per cent and the excess charges made need to be refunded”.
“Profit of 54 per cent to 98 per cent (in three sessions) has also been made from medical charges and tuition fee has also been increased by 20 per cent. The school has not contradicted the said figures and has neither submitted class-wise fee structure of 2011-12 to 2013-14. The fee increase has to be within 10 per cent of the previous year and that too if corresponding expenditure on salaries is incurred by the way of new recruitment or annual increase of salaries,” the committee has ruled.
The committee has also ordered the school to refund Rs 28.21 lakh with 9 per cent interest taken as smart class fee as they were never conducted. The school argued that due to a dispute with the vendor, classes were not started but committee noted that ‘parents were not responsible for it.’
Contacted for comments, Poonam Dogra, principal of the school, said, “We have received a copy of the orders and it is under the purview of our legal cell. The final decision will be taken by the management after discussions with the legal cell.”