September 20, 2012

Private schools must also teach the poor for free: SC

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has taken an important step towards universal education by ruling that children from weaker and disadvantaged sections have a right to quality education free of cost in all government and private-run schools.

This ruling could force private schools, mandated to admit students aged between 6 and 14 from weaker and disadvantaged groups free of cost under Article 21A of the Constitution guaranteeing right to education, to dismantle the separate sections they had created in every class for the poor and disadvantaged children.

"Provisions of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker section is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on government funds, said a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and F M I Kalifullah.

Writing the judgment for the bench in a case relating to qualification of teachers, Justice Chauhan said, "The educational institutions must function to the best advantage of the citizens. Opportunity to acquire education cannot be confined to the richer section of the society. The policy framework behind education in India is anchored in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provisions of inclusive elementary education to all."

The bench's judgment made more meaningful the Supreme Court's ruling in State of Tamil Nadu vs K Shyam Sunder last year, when it had said, "The right of a child should not be restricted only to free and compulsory education but should be extended to have quality education without any discrimination on economic, social and cultural background."

Justices Chauhan and Kalifullah said democracy depended for its very life on a high standard of general, vocational and professional education. "Dissemination of learning with search for new knowledge with discipline all round must be maintained at all costs," the bench said.

To maintain high standards of education and make it available to all without discrimination on grounds of economic, social or cultural background, a large number of trained teachers were required to impart quality elementary and basic education, the court said.

Declining to dilute standards set by expert bodies for eligibility of candidates to become teachers, the bench said, "The legislature in its wisdom, after consultation with the expert body, fixes the eligibility for a particular discipline taught in a school. Thus, the eligibility so fixed requires very strict compliance and any appointment in contravention thereof must be held to be void."

September 5, 2012

Panel wants 64 schools to refund excess fee

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) Sixty-four private city schools have illegally collected higher fee from students since September 2008, a committee has informed the Delhi High Court while recommending a refund of the money with 9 percent per annum interest.

The 600-page interim report of Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee, which randomly examined the accounts of 200 schools, was opened by a special bench of Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Siddharth Mridul Friday.

The committee was constituted about a year ago to submit a report on the determination of fees in the unaided schools in Delhi.

Its first interim report was based on an examination of 200 unaided private schools out of a total 1,172 institutions.

In the case of 13 schools, the committee found that either no records were maintained or the accounts were fudged. It recommended strict action against these schools.

"The committee recommends that the schools be directed to refund the increased monthly fee from September 2008 till the date of actual refund along with the interest at the rate of 9 percent per annum," the report said.

It also raised questions on the working of the department of education as it did not act in accordance with the law in inspecting the schools.

"The regulatory mechanism envisaged by the law has been thrown to the winds by the directorate of education. Schools are enjoying total and unbridled freedom in acting in the manner they like," the report said.

"Right from the stage of granting recognition, the lack of supervisory control of the directorate is writ large. Hardly any inspections are done and even if they are, they are conducted in a most perfunctory manner," the report said.

The bench July 20 directed the committee to submit a report on the fee hike in unaided private schools in Delhi. After the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission, the schools increased the fees citing additional financial burden due to increased salaries of teachers.

The court gave directions for setting up a committee to audit the accounts of each of the schools to ascertain if the fee hike by them was required.

The committee also said that there were 143 schools which increased the fee without implementing the Sixth Pay Commission. Many of the schools in the city were operating without even a bank account and years after years they were granted recognition, it said.

Several of the schools have not been maintaining proper accounts and were not getting their accounts audited as required by the law, and were also not filing annual returns, the report said. "Some of the schools have been fabricating their accounts and getting various types of certificates from chartered accountants which do not qualify as audit reports," said the report.

Advocate Ashok Agarwal, appearing for a group of parents, earlier said that if the report was submitted "it would be a great relief to the exploited parents, as they would be entitled to refund of the excess fee recovered from them by schools".

The court would next hear the matter Sep 14.

September 4, 2012

Government has no control over schools

A Delhi high court-appointed committee has said that the extent of irregularities indulged in by private schools in the capital to bolster their case for a fee hike in 2009, indicated that the government had no control over their functioning. The panel, which inspected accounts of 200 schools to verify the validity of up to 25 per cent fee hike imposed by them, submitted before the Delhi high court that it was high time the government took action against errant schools.

"Regulatory mechanism envisaged by the law has been thrown to the winds by the directorate of education. Schools are enjoying total and unbridled freedom and are acting in the manner they like," said the three-member committee headed by former Rajasthan high court chief justice Anil Dev Singh.

"Right from the stage of granting recognition, the lack of supervisory control of the directorate of education is writ large. Hardly any inspection is done," it said. Apart from the 64 schools indicted by the panel for unjustifiably hiking fees, the panel also found that at least 50 other schools had fudged account statements and concealed receipt books and made it difficult to ascertain the extent by which they hiked the fee.

"In case violators are not dealt with adequately by the education department, their disdain for the rules would keep on pinching the pockets of the parents," said the panel, recommending punitive action against many such schools.

"The panel's conclusions are sensational. It is a warning bell. Hope it brings a change in the way schools function," said Ashok Agarwal, lawyer for parents in the PIL which triggered formation of a panel to verify the validity of fee hike.