June 8, 2020 8:14:14 pm
Seeking relief for the parents of the schoolgoing children, the Punjab government Monday in the Punjab and Haryana High Court sought recalling of the latter’s order, which last month allowed the schools to collect 70 per cent of the total fee and also the admission fee in two installments in six months. Punjab has also sought recalling of the direction which said schools can pay only 70 per cent of the salary to the teachers during pendency of the case.
The HC had passed the order on May 22 in a petition filed by Independent Schools Association challenging the administration’s order to the schools, by which they were directed to only charge tuition fee and not building charges, transportation charges, or charges for meals etc. The schools, in the order passed by the administration last month, were also directed to not reduce the salary of the teachers, and reschedule the last date of deposit of admission fee to one month after the condition improves.
Advocate General Atul Nanda appeared for the state before the court of Justice Ritu Bahri on Monday.
Punjab government, in the application seeking recalling of the May 22 order, said the directions were passed realising the inability of parents to deposit fee at scheduled time due to the financial crunch and argued that the state was well within its rights to pass the directions. The directions were passed in exercise of powers under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Regarding the direction for payment of salaries to teachers, Punjab government said it was done in compliance of an advisory of Ministry of Labour, which the state was found to follow under the 2005 Act.
“There is particularly no question of financial hardship since non-applicants (schools) who are imparting online classes can continue to charge fee in respect of such classes. The only restriction is on charging the miscellaneous charges such as meal charges, transportation charges etc. This (should) also be seen in the context of the fact that schools more than often outsource their transportation services to private contractors under a contract renewable from time to time, and thus would not directly be affected…,” the government said in the application.
Issuing a notice on the application, the court adjourned the case to June 12.
The schools earlier had also raised an argument regarding utilization of Rs 77 crore reserve fund with the PSEB. Punjab in the application has clarified that the funds are with the state treasury and that the only condition for withdrawal is a prior sanction of the district education officer.
“This ‘Reserve Fund’ is maintained by the schools being a condition for recognition under Regulation 232 of the Education Code in order to ensure continued maintenance of the school. The Reserve Fund … is equal to at least six months’ salary of the staff. Thus, the appropriate remedy in this regard would have been the aggrieved school making a representation before the DEO requesting for withdrawal of part of the Reserve Fund,” the application reads.
Submitting that it was not required to give a hearing to the schools as the directions were passed in an emergent situation to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 pandemic, Punjab has argued the directions fall within the realm of a policy making and cannot be tested before the high court in writ proceedings. “The impugned directions were a temporary measure and in public interest,” the government said.
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