HC appoints panels to look into fees charged by schoolshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/hc-appoints-panels-to-look-into-fees-charged-by-schools/

HC appoints panels to look into fees charged by schools

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has appointed three committees,one each for Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh,to go “into the accounts of the schools and find out the reasonableness of increase in fees by the schools”.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has appointed three committees,one each for Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh,to go “into the accounts of the schools and find out the reasonableness of increase in fees by the schools”.

To be chaired by a retired High Court Judge,the three member committee will comprise of a chartered accountant and a member from the field of education.

“The committees shall be entitled to specifically look into the aspects of how much fees increase was required by each individual school on the examination of records and accounts etc of these schools and taking into consideration the funds available etc at the disposal of the schools,” the Court ruled on Tuesday.

A division bench headed by Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri made it clear that “if it is found that the fees hike by schools was more than warranted,the direction can be given to those schools to refund the same to the students”.

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The directions were passed on Tuesday on a bunch of petitions. The petitions raised several significant issues including fees hike by schools. The chief question was the issue of the “school fee being changed by unaided private educational institutions in Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh for students in their schools and their right to hike fee from time to time and the nature of control which the government can exercise in regulating such fee structure”.

The “moot question” before the High Court was that “while giving freedom to the schools to fix their own fees structure,how to ensure that these schools are not indulging in profiteering and commercialisation of education and are also not diverting funds through unauthorised channels”.

The Court ruled that that there is “hardly any examination of most of the records which are simply dumped by the schools with the Boards/regulatory authorities and keep lying there in their archives”.

Providing solution,the Court directed Punjab,Haryana and Chandigarh to “provide some permanent mechanism/ regulatory bodies which would go into this aspect on regular basis”. The three states have been “directed to examine the feasibility of establishing such a mechanism and take decision thereupon within a period of six months from today. Till that is done and in order to sort out the issue as to whether hike in fees by the schools is proper or not”,the court has constituted three committees.

While the Punjab committee will be headed by Justice Ranjit Singh (retd),Haryana’s committee will be chaired by Justice (retd) Kiran Anand Lall. Chandigarh’s committee will be chaired by Justice R S Mongia (retd).

It has been made clear that “the scope of work undertaken by the committee (s) shall be restricted to the academic year 2012-2013. Likewise,for the year 2013-14,though the schools shall have the right to fix their fees structure,they will have to justify the same by producing necessary material before the committees”.

Guidelines for fixing fee structure

Laying down clear guidelines for fixing “fee structure”,the High Court has ruled that considerations to be kept in mind are : (a) the infrastructure and facilities available (b) investments made,salaries paid to teachers and staff,and (c) future plans for expansion and/ or betterment of institution subject to two restrictions,non profiteering and non charging of capitation fees.

Answering the question of whether the Director of Education has the authority to regulate the quantum of fees charged by un-aided schools,the Court has held the legal position “which cannot be denied is that there cannot be any rigid fees structure by the government”.

Ruling that “each institute has to be given fredom to fix its own fees structure”,the Court held that “at the same time,schools cannot indulge in profiteering and cannot charge capitation fee higher,therefore,the fees fixation is subject to two restrictions”.

The order further reads “it is also to be ensured that fees/ funds collected by the schools from parents/ teachers are not transferred from the school funds to the society or the trust which runs schools or any other institutions. However,the recognized unaided schools are entitled to set up a development fund account and for this purpose they can charge from the students,but such a charge should not exceed 50 percent of the annual tuition fees”.

Issue notices for de affiliation : HC to ISCE

On the issue of submission of “the annual reports/balance sheets” by the schools,the High Court,significantly,on Tuesday directed the Indian School Certificate Education (ISCE) that against “those schools who have defaulted in submitting the annual accounts,immediate action be taken and show cause notices be issued for de-affiliation of such schools”.

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On the issue of “whether the schools affiliated to them are prescribing the books of private publishers,and if yes,what steps have been taken by them for directing the schools to prescribe the books published by NCERT”,the Court has answered “no doubt there should be an attempt to prescribe the books of NCERT wherever available. However,it is also a matter of fact there is no law or regulation which mandates the schools to prescribe books of NCERT only to the students”.