The Chandigarh Administration on Tuesday informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that 40 private schools have uploaded the income and expenditure accounts and the balance sheets on their websites following its orders.
However, many schools have blamed the lockdown for their failure to upload the documents within the stipulated time. It was also told that four-five parents have sought waiving of the fees on account of the ongoing situation.
The HC is hearing a case filed by the Independent Schools’ Association and other school managements against the provisions of the Punjab Regulation of Fee of Unaided Educational Institutions Act, 2016, as per which they are required to disclose the information, and also the recent communications issued to them by the administration reminding them to upload the information on their webistes. The case was adjourned for next hearing on Wednesday.
The administration in a reply to the petition told the court that a number of complaints have been received from parents regarding profiteering being done by private schools during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and lockdown.
Show-cause notices were issued to such schools which have not complied with the provisions requiring them to disclose the information regarding income, expenditure and balance. No order has been passed against any of the schools to date, the court was told.
While the schools in the petition filed through advocate Aashish Chopra have argued that uploading of the sensitive financial information on a public platform could invite fishing expeditions against schools and that they cannot be held to be public authorities for the purposes of suo motu disclosure of information, the administration has said the schools are being run by charitable trusts or registered societies and thus are public entities.
“Moreover, the petitioners have been allotted government land to run the schools. As per the allotment of land to educational institution (school) on leasehold basis in Chandigarh Scheme., all private unaided schools are to follow the instructions/guidelines/directions regarding fee structure issued by Chandigarh Administration from time and time,” the reply reads.
The petition challenges the legal prohibition on diversion of any part of the savings and funds from schools for any other purpose other than for promoting the educational institutions and furthering education in the schools. The schools have also challenged the composition of the regulatory body under the Punjab Fee of Unaided Educational Institutions Act, 2016, for not providing for representation of schools in it.
In a separate reply, the Union government has sought dismissal of the petition on the grounds of delay saying the Punjab law, the provisions of which have been challenged, was extended to Chandigarh more than two years ago.
The MHA in the reply also said the provisions regarding disclosure of the information are in consonance with the corresponding sections of the parent Act and offer more clarification to ensure the basic concept of transparency.
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