Private schools have written to Delhi government raising objections to the proposed amendments to the Delhi State Education Act and Rules (1973) on the grounds that the changes would have a “grave, detrimental impact” on their functioning. They have cited Supreme Court and High Court judgments regarding the right of schools to run their own institutions autonomously to make their case.
“The SC has recognised the right of the private schools to have maximum autonomy in admissions and to set a fee structure…The Department of Education (DoE) has no power to fix, prescribe or cap either the fee structure or any hike in the garb of regulation,” reads the letter written by the Action Committee of Unaided Private Schools , an umbrella body of more than 350 private schools in the city.
Quoting the 2002 SC verdict in the case of TMA Pai Foundation vs State of Karnataka, and the recent High Court verdict stating the government could not “trample upon the autonomy conferred upon the management of the schools with regard to the right to administer”, the schools have expressed reservations over all proposed changes.
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While they say proposed amendments to Section 17 will leave schools vulnerable to “harassment”, Section 24 and 27A is being seen as means to “terrorise” them. “The Committee submits that the proposed amendments to Section 17 shall expose private schools to continuous harassment and unwarranted scrutiny. Similarly, Sections 24 and 27 (a) need not be made so harsh so as to intimidate or to terrorise schools with compulsory and mandatory convictions in all cases. Every small, minor, unintentional and even non-deliberate non-compliance or breach is to result in automatic convictions,” the letter says.
Through amendments to Section 17, a committee formed by the government can act on complaints against a fee hike by a particular school. The director will also have the powers to regulate fees charged by private schools and issue binding guidelines.
Section 24 of the act gives the government the power to impose various fines and punishments on schools found “guilty of engaging in illegal activities”.
Insertion of Section 27(a) will make school authorities liable for a imprisonment of three to seven years, along with a fine of Rs 1 to 5 lakh for contravention of the act.
Through the amended Rule 145, the director will regulate admissions to classes, including entry-level classes, in private schools.