The Delhi High Court Wednesday put on hold its single judge’s order allowing private unaided schools in the capital to go ahead with an interim hike in fees to implement recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission on salaries of teachers and other employees.
“Till April 8, the next date of hearing, none of the ‘land clause’ schools will proceed to collect the interim hiked fee,” said a division bench headed by Justice S Muralidhar.
It also asked the Delhi government to produce, on the next date, orders passed by it on proposals given by different ‘land clause’ schools for hiking fee.
The interim stay order was given on the Delhi government’s appeal against the single judge’s March 15 verdict, by which it had permitted the interim fee hike.
Ahead of elections, why this case matters to AAP
The Delhi government Wednesday called the Delhi High Court’s stay on interim fee hike a big victory for the government. For a government that has taken a tough stand against irregularities in private schools and a few policies, the issue of fee hike is an important one, especially before the city goes to polls. While the stay is only till next week, the government has cited Wednesday’s order to say that it stands with parents against fee hike, also making it a poll pitch that AAP is taking from one colony to another. A substantial part of the government’s image with parents rests on the outcome of the case.
While doing so, the single judge bench had quashed a Delhi government circular from April last year, which prohibited private unaided schools functioning on government land from hiking tuition fee without approval of the Directorate of Education (DoE).
On Wednesday, the bench also issued notice and sought response of the Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, in which a number of private schools are members.
Hours after the HC’s interim order, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “If there would have been a corrupt government in Delhi, they would not have appealed against the single judge order and would have instead taken money from schools. I would like to assure parents that they have their own government in Delhi. An honest government. We will protect the interest of the people of Delhi at any cost.”
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted: “We have an honest government in Delhi and it understands the pain of parents. Private schools have the right to charge fees as per their expenses, but not unreasonably. This government will not allow this to happen.”
In 2017, the Delhi government had passed an order saying that private schools could effect an interim fee hike till the time their accounts are audited and it is ascertained that a hike is necessary to offset the Seventh Pay Commission salary hike to teachers. However, it withdrew the order last year, with officials saying that several schools were hiking fee by up to 25% in an unjustified manner. Following this, several school associations had gone to court against the withdrawal of the interim fee hike order.
During the hearing, the Delhi government’s standing counsel Ramesh Singh and additional standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi contended that the findings of the single judge is “ex-facie unsustainable”.
Urging the court to set aside the single judge order, the government argued that it “erred in holding that no prior approval of DoE was required in case of interim fee hike as the same was not an act of fee increase by the school, but a dispensation by the department itself”.
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