August 08, 2009

Schools can hike fee only with Govt consent: SC

NEW DELHI: In a major victory for parents resisting `arbitrary' fee hikes by private unaided schools in the capital and a partial relief for the schools, the Supreme Court on Friday allowed school managements to increase fee but only with prior approval of Delhi government's Director of Education.
By leashing the school fee structure, which has seen massive increase in the recent past, to DoE's consent at the commencement of an academic year, the apex court said it wanted to protect parents from being fleeced in the name of capitation charges by greedy managements.
The schools, however, got a small friendly clarification in the judgment which said that if more than one private unaided school was under a single management, then surplus funds of school could be transferred to another. However, this also came with a big rider - the money cannot not be transferred to the parent society and that the funds were to be utilized only for the purpose of education.
A bench comprising Justices S B Sinha, S H Kapadia and Cyriac Joseph gave separate judgments on the issue. But, the majority judgment flowed from Justices Kapadia and Joseph, both of whom decided to dismiss a batch of petitions from schools seeking a review of SC's 2004 judgment.
In another significant order aimed at putting a lid of profiteering by schools, the judgment said, ``Every recognized unaided school covered by the (Delhi School Education) Act shall maintain accounts on the principles of accounting applicable to non-business/not-for-profit organisations.''
By permitting transfer of surplus funds from a school to its sister concern, the SC did take care of a long-standing grievance of the schools that a ban on shifting extra money had severely hindered establishment of new schools and upgrading infrastructure.
It also said that the fees could be increased undwer the mechanism provided in the Delhi School Education Act, 1973 and the relevant rules on increase in salaries of teachers and staff as well as infrastructure improvements, but such enhanced fee structure could only be implemented with prior approval from DoE.
The court also reiterated its earlier direction which stated that ``each school is required to file a statement of fees every year before the ensuing academic session under Section 17(3) of the Act with DoE''.
``The school shall not increase tuition fee without prior sanction from the Directorate of Education, Delhi Administration, and shall follow provisions of Delhi School Education Act/Rules, 1973 and other instructions issued from time to time,'' the court said.
In its 2004 judgment, the court had taken a serious objection to the manner in which schools were being used as a front for profiteering by managements and the societies. By dismissing the review petitions and issuing a clarification, the code applicable for the schools is as follows:
- The DoE can regulate fee in accordance with Section 17(3) of the Delhi School Education Act, 1973 and Delhi School Education Rules, 1973
- The funds of the school can be transferred to sister concerns under the same management only for the purpose of educational activities
- The schools which have obtained land from the government at concessional rates, subject to the condition of giving freeships to poor children, are bound to adhere to the land lease condition.