January 7, 2017 1:28:26 am
The Gujarat High Court, in a respite to more than 250 parents, has said that the fees charged exorbitantly for profiteering is “an ugly facet of commercialisation of education”. While holding that all schools running within the territorial limit of the state are covered under the state law, the court has said that for schools “projected claim of providence of facilities” can’t be the sole benchmark for justifying the hike in fees.
The single-bench of justice N V Anjaria while allowing a petition moved by five parents and association of 257 parents of Nirmala Convent School, Rajkot, has also directed the state government to set up a committee headed by secretary, department of education, parents’ representative, school representative, representative of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and an Officer from the Gujarat Secondary Education Board and examine charging of fees and the fee structure of the school affiliated to CBSE. The order also states that the committee should submit its report within a period of four months whose finding should be binding to the parties and may take effect from the academic year 2017-2018.
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The petition had been filed in 2013 by the parents opposing the fees hike by the school which is run by a trust, Nirmala Society, that has students from kindergarten to standard 12. From standard 1 to 7 are affiliated with the CBSE. The parents had moved the court against the school authorities for raising the fee from 200 per cent to 300 per cent for the academic year 2013-2014 . The parents accused that the hike amounted to “profiteering, imposition of capitation fee and commercialization of education.”
The school opposed the petition saying that CBSE norms give authority to the school to set its fee according to the facilities provided by them. The court order states the school’s reply saying that “The parents could not have complained about the hike when their wards are enjoying better facilities and infrastructure standards. They have to pay higher fees if they desire to impart education to their wards…”
The school also contended that it is governed by CBSE under a separate system and it is not bound by the state laws. The state government also filed its response and state the school is “under direct control supervision and administration of the state of Gujarat.” Interestingly, this is contrary to what the government has submitted in a similar petition in High Court where it has said that “CBSE schools are not governed by Gujarat laws.” In this petition, a group of more than 200 parents has challenged the fees hike by a private school affiliated to CBSE – Firdaus Amrut Centre, which is also run by a trust in Ahmedabad.
While pronouncing the judgment on December 26 justice Anjaria has made it clear that “The situs of the school is within the State of Gujarat. Therefore though it is affiliated to CBSE, it is bound by the instructions, directions and regulations as well as the prescription of conditions by the State education authorities.”
The judgment states that “Fees charged under the pretext of claim of providing higher facilities and claimed modern standards would have a definite tendency to drift into a state of exorbitance and profiteering.” The court has stayed the judgment for a month following the request by the lawyers representing the school.
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