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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Delhi HC seeks clarity on fee hike emails sent to Apeejay school branches

The court was hearing a plea by the school seeking to stay proceedings on the education department’s complaint to police to lodge FIRs against their manager and heads, citing violation of directions regarding fee collection during the coronavirus crisis.

Written by Pritam Pal Singh | New Delhi | Updated: May 20, 2020 2:49:56 pm
Delhi HC seeks clarity on fee hike emails sent to Apeejay school branches The court issued notice to the Delhi government, DoE, and South and Northwest district magistrates directing them to file a counter affidavit within two weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on June 8. (Repesentational Image)

The Delhi High Court has sought to know from the Delhi Police’s Cyber Crime Cell whether the e-mails exchanged between the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE) and the heads of schools of Apeejay branches on fee increase for the year were genuine or not.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher, meanwhile, restrained police from taking “any coercive measures against the management” of the Saket, Sheikh Sarai and Pitampura branches of Apeejay School.

The court issued notice to the Delhi government, DoE, and South and Northwest district magistrates directing them to file a counter affidavit within two weeks and listed the matter for further hearing on June 8.

The court was hearing a plea by the school seeking to stay proceedings on the education department’s complaint to police to lodge FIRs against their manager and heads, citing violation of directions regarding fee collection during the coronavirus crisis. The school called the allegations “false and malicious”.

Delhi government’s Additional Standing Counsel Gautam Narayan, appearing for the district magistrates, challenged the “maintainability” of the petition and contended that the orders are file notings and cannot form the basis for initiating a writ action.

Narayan submitted that the petitioners had challenged the DoE’s May 1 order to register an FIR against the school and seal the premises. The High Court on May 5 had ordered de-sealing of the branches.

The order had clarified that it has neither considered nor commented upon the merits of the direction of DoE, with regard to registration of FIR against the petitioner school.

Advocate Sanjeev Ralli, appearing for the school, contested this position and submitted that they were “unaware of the decision and, therefore, could not have assailed the same in the earlier round of litigation”.

Narayan submitted that a complaint has been lodged with police pursuant to the May 5 decision, which has been raised in the present writ petition.

Ralli contended “that because emails dated 12.12.2019, 16.12.2019 and 25.02.2020… were sent by Deputy Director, DOE and/or his office to the petitioners, the petitioners took the decision to charge for the current financial year i.e. 2020-2021, fee which was obtained in the financial year 2019-2020”.

On which, the bench ordered that “the Cyber Crime Cell, Delhi Police, will file a report before this court with regard to their view as to the genuineness of the e-mails referred to hereinabove i.e. e-mails dated 12.12.2019, 16.12.2019 and 25.02.2020.”

Delhi Government’s Additional Standing Counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, representing the government and DoE, disputed the genuineness of the e-mails and said “which is why a police complaint has been filed”.

The court in its May 18 order directed that the schools “will charge from students only the tuition fee, that too, on a monthly basis, at the rates which were obtaining prior to 31.10.2019.”

“The petitioners will not collect any other amount from students other than the monthly tuition fee and those which are expressly permitted by the DoE,” it said, adding that “salaries of staff members and teachers will be paid at the rates presently prevailing”.

The charges levelled by the education department against the schools include coercing parents to pay increased fee which had not been approved by it. The department, in its letter to the police station concerned, claimed that the school management justified the fee increase to parents on the basis of fake emails from the department’s private school branch.

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