The independent Schools’ Association (ISA), a group of 87 schools in Chandigarh, in a petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court has challenged the law requiring the schools to upload the income and expenditure account and balance sheets on their websites.
The schools have challenged certain provisions of the Punjab Regulation of Fee of Unaided Educational Institutions Act, 2016, as extended to Chandigarh.
The Punjab law for regulation of fee of unaided educational institutions and creation of a regulatory body for the purpose was extended by the Ministry of Home Affairs to Chandigarh in 2018 with certain modifications.
The petition challenging the provisions of the law in Chandigarh comes in the backdrop of the memos and reminders issued to various schools for uploading of income and expenditure account and balance sheets on their websites – the orders have also been challenged in the same petitions.
The school managements apprehend the authorities may adopt coercive measures against them, states the petition. The case on Thursday was adjourned by a division bench for hearing on June 8.
The main provisions under challenge include the one requiring the schools to upload the income, expenditure account and balance sheets on their websites. The petition also challenges the legal prohibition on diversion of any part of the savings and funds from schools for any purpose other than 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.
Seeking directions to restrain the authorities from enforcing the provisions under challenge, the ISA in the petition filed through advocate Aashish Chopra has argued that uploading of the sensitive financial information on a public platform could invite fishing expeditions against schools and the members and that the information can be used for nefarious purposes.
The schools have also argued that they cannot be held to be public authorities for the purposes of suo motu disclosure of information as private entities are exempted even under the RTI Act.
“It is also pertinent to mention that the Statement of Accounts of the Schools are very much already available with the Office of the DEO, along with the information about the fee structure of the schools. This information is furnished by all the schools on an annual basis in compliance with the obligation imposed on the schools as a necessary concomitant of the recognition granted to the school,” the petition reads, adding that an annual report of the information is also required by law to be sent to the regulatory authority.
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