Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Denied admission in govt schools, 6 students move HC

Maroosha Muzaffar

Six students moved the Delhi High Court on Monday after being refused admission by various government-run schools in the city, terming it a violation of their right to education as guaranteed under the the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and the Delhi School Education Act, 1973.

The six — Heena Khan, Baloon, Barkha, Rizwana, Muhammed Fazil and Amir Khan — moved the High Court through advocate Ashok Agarwal. The hearing is likely to take place on August 4.

Heena Khan (12) was denied admission to Class VII at the Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Jahangirpuri, without any reason being offered, according to the complainant. Baloon was denied admission to Class IX by the Government Co-ed Senior Secondary School, Ghazipur, on the ground that she needed a ration card for the same. Amir Khan was turned away by the same school on the ground that students from Uttar Pradesh are not admitted.

Barkha (12) was initially admitted in Class VI by the Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Jahangirpuri. According to the complainant, “fee was also received, but after two-three days, she was removed from the school without any reason being given and the fee was also returned to her parents”.

Rizwana was denied admission to Class IX by the Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Khajuri Khas, while Muhammad Fazil (12) was denied a re-admission to Class VI by the Rajkiya Bal Madhyamik Vidyalaya, Jaffrabad, without any reason being offered.

Newsline had on July 27 carried a report on eight other girl students approaching the High Court alleging that government schools had refused them admission. The High Court had asked the government and the schools to explain by August 5 the reason for doing so.

“Denial of admission to these students by the schools has been challenged on the ground that it is illegal, unconstitutional and contrary to the RTE Act, 2009, the Delhi School Education Act, 1973, violative of Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 21 (Right to Life with Dignity), Article 21-A (Right to Education) and Article 38 (Right to Social Justice) of the Indian Constitution read with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),” says lawyer and activist Ashok Agarwal.

Agarwal added that government schools have been denying admission to thousands of children on illegal grounds. “Government schools are the only hope for these children. If these schools deny them admission, where would they go?”
Indian Express Aug 4, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Parents' body takes fee hike issue to Sonia

Expressing dissatisfaction over arbitrary fee hikes in private schools across the county, the All India Parents' Association on Saturday asked the National Advisory Council chairperson Sonia Gandhi to recommend the central government to bring in a law to regulate school fees. The association, in a letter to Gandhi, said that while government schools lack basic infrastructure, unaided private schools exploit parents by charging huge amounts.

"The common man is unable to provide quality education to his child because government schools lack basic infrastructure and suffer from mismanagement, resulting in inferior quality of education," said Ashok Agarwal, president of the association.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, Aug 1, 2010

Role shift: Parents to screen schools

Maroosha Muzaffar

New Delhi Nursery admission process starts in NCR; DPS, Gurgaon, first off block, to issue prospectus today

Manika Awasthi, a corporate professional, has started visiting various schools in and around Gurgaon to make sure her only son Shiv goes to the “right” school.

“Schools screen parents, so why can’t parents screen the schools before seeking admission for the child,” says Awathi. A resident of Nirvana Country in Gurgaon, she says, “It is tough to get admission in schools, we are doing our best. I went to the Sun City School and Heritage School over the weekend. I am also planning to go to other schools that allow ‘walk-throughs’. I ask them questions about the philosophy of the school, about the teacher-student ratio etc.”

With Delhi Public School, Gurgaon, throwing open the nursery admission process from Monday, parents have started pulling their socks and preparing for the race ahead. DPS Gurgaon will be the first school in the NCR to start the sale of prospectus andregistration forms for admission in nursery for the session 2011-2012.

In Delhi, the sale of forms will begin in December or January as per the Directorate of Education (DoE) officials. Last year, the DoE had asked all achools across the Capital to follow a uniform calender for sale and admission process. But in the National Capital Region, schools start selling forms from August.

“I will be applying for the admission of my son to those schools that will ensure the holistic development of my child. I want to make the best decision for my child,” says Awasthi.

Sumit Vohra, creator of the, says, “There is a certain anxiety among parents this year regarding certain issues like screening, age etc. Parents have strated making preparations.”

The RTE obstacle

Meanwhile, with the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, according to which any screening at the time of admissions is banned, schools are now in a tight spot. “It is going to be a difficult situation for us,” said V K Kuriakose, Principal of the St Thomas School at Indirapuram in Ghaziabad. The school will start the sale of forms in November. “If a school gets 900 applications and has only 150 seats to offer, what will the school do in such a situation.”

Private unaided schools are worried as the entry level for most of the schools is nursery and they cannot refuse any child. The Act also applies to “admission of a child in the pre-primary classes”. Section 13 (1) of the RTE Act reads, “No school or person shall, while admitting a child, collect any capitation fee and subject the child or his or her parents or guardian to any screening procedure. If a school subjects a child to screening procedure, it shall be punishable with a fine up to Rs 25,000 for the first contravention and Rs 50,000 for each subsequent contraventions,” the Act says.

In Delhi, the National Progressive School’s Conference (NPSC) too is mulling this issue. S K Bhattacharya, president of the Action Committee for the Private Recognised Schools, says, “This is going to be a big problem. There will be no option but to go for the draw of lots.” He adds that “first come first serve” basis will “lead to corruption. Parents might bribe the schools for a seat.”

Appeal filed

The Action Committee has already appealed the High Court to look into the matter. “We met Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely and told him that this is going to create problems. The points system was working satisfactorily,” he says. As per the points system, admission was granted on the basis of certain criteria like distance from the school, siblings, minority, girl child etc.

Ashok Agarwal, lawyer and president All India Parents’ Association says, “The Delhi government needs to bring the points system in conformity with the RTE Act. According to the RTE, there will be no screening. School can now go for the draw of lots.”

For admission under the 25 per cent quota for the Economically Weaker Section, it has already been decided that there will be a draw of lots. “The minority schools can have seperate application for the minority and non-minority though,” says Agarwal.

Indian Express, New Delhi, August 2, 2010

Need of the hour: Law to check arbitrary fee hike in unaided schools - AIPA writes to Ms. Sonia Gandhi



To 31.07.2010
Smt. Sonia Gandhi,
National Advisory Council,
Government of India,
2, Moti Lal Nehru Marg,
New Delhi-110001

Sub: - Request for recommendations to the Central Government to bring a Central Law to check arbitrary fee hike in unaided private schools all over the country

Respected Madam,

We have the honor to bring to your kind notice that the common man in this country is unable to provide quality school education to its child because of the fact that on one hand, the government schools by and large lack basic physical and academic infrastructure and suffers from cruel mismanagement resulting in inferior quality of education and on the other hand, the good quality unaided private schools mercilessly exploit the parents and the students by subjecting them to arbitrary, unjust and exorbitant fees and other charges. In other words, the common man is a victim of the State designed situation.

It is submitted that the Apex Court has again and again re-affirmed the law of the land that the capitation fee, exorbitant fee, profiteering, commercialization of education and exploitation of parents/students by the unaided private schools are impermissible in law and the Government has not only the powers but also the duty to regulate fees and other charges in these schools to prevent commercialization of education. However, the issue is that there is a total absence of legal framework in the country to control and regulate the unaided private schools in the matter of fees and other charges. The only exception is: Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2009 (In short, Tamil Nadu Act, 2009) but it is limited to the State of Tamil Nadu. The parents and the students all over the country have been agitating against the Governments’ failure to curb commercialization of education in the unaided private schools. The need of the hour is to have a central law to regulate fees and other charges in these unaided private schools all over the country, may be, on the lines of the Tamil Nadu Act, 2009.

It is submitted that after the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Order of 11.05.2010 dismissing Special Leave Petitions of several Unaided Private Schools of the State of Tamil Nadu challenging the Madras High Court Judgment of 09.04.2010 upholding the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2009 and The Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Rules, 2009, the Central Government should have brought a national law immediately on the lines of Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 to check the menace of commercialization of education in unaided private schools all over the country and to protect the hapless parents and students from such exploitation. However, the Central Government has not done any thing so far in this regard.

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court has delivered a landmark Judgment on 09.04.2010 dismissing all the writ petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 by holding that the scheme of the Act is in consonance with the law laid down by the Apex Court, and it by and large strikes a balance between the autonomy of the institutions and measures to be taken to prevent commercialization of education. “There are sufficient guidelines in the statute for either approving or fixing the fees. The procedure prescribed provides for appropriate opportunity to the managements. The Committee is headed by a retired High Court Judge. The minority institutions have also to maintain non-exploitative terms as held in P.A.Inamdar’s case. The impugned Act, therefore, cannot be said to be in any way in violation of Articles 19(1) (g) and 26 and 30 of the Constitution of India”, said the Hon’ble Judges.

The Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 was enacted in the backdrop of the fact that in the State of Tamil Nadu, there were about 5500 Nursery/Primary Schools, 4100 Matriculation Schools, 38 Anglo Indian Schools and 500 State Board Schools of Tamil Medium totaling to 10, 148 schools which were unaided. There was no uniformity in their fee structure and on the face of it large numbers of them were charging very high fees, which could not be justified. The Madras High Court while deciding the case has also taken note of the fact that the Government has placed on record considerable material showing that private schools charging exorbitant fees. The High Court has further taken note of the fact that large number of representations have been made by the Parents’ Associations all throughout the State against charging of high fees by particular schools and the news reports of agitation by parents at different places. It was, therefore, felt necessary to regulate their fees.

The salient features of the Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 are: (a) The Committee constituted under Section 5(1) for the purpose of determination of the fee shall be headed by a retired High Court Judge. (b) The Committee has to call upon the private institutions to place before it the proposed fee structure of the institution with all relevant documents and books of accounts for scrutiny within the period to be indicated by the Committee in the given notice. (c) After the receipt of the proposal from the concerned institution, the Committee has to verify as to whether the fee proposed by the Private School is justified and it does not amount to profiteering or charging of exorbitant fee. (d) In case the Committee is of the view that the fee structure proposed by the institution appears to be correct, taking note of the various facilities provided and that there was no profiteering or collection of exorbitant fee, it has to approve the fee structure. (e) In case the Committee is of the view that the fee structure forwarded by the institution is exorbitant and that there is an element of profiteering, the Committee has to determine some other fee. (f) While fixing some other fee, the Committee has to follow certain procedures taking into consideration the factors as found mentioned under Section 6(1) as well as Rule 3 of the Rules. (g) The determination of the fee as made by the Committee should be intimated to the concerned institution and there upon the institution has got a right to submit their objections within fifteen days. (h) The objection so submitted by the institution shall be examined by the Committee. The Committee has to consider it objectively. The Committee was not expected to reject the objection summarily. As per Section 7(4), the Committee shall have the powers to regulate its own procedure in all matters and it shall have all the powers of a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 regarding summoning and attendance of witness and related matters. Therefore, the Committee would be within their powers to get the factors verified in respect of the claim made by the institution, to approve their fee structure, as against the fee determined by the Committee. (i) The fee so prescribed would be in operation for a period of three years and at the end of such period, it would be open to the institution to make an application for revision of fees. (j) Under Section 3(2) no fee in excess of the fee determined by the Committee shall be collected in a private school and the punishment provided for contravention thereof is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees and the Court may, for any adequate and special reason to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than three years. (k) The person convicted shall refund to the pupil from whom the excess fee was collected, such excess fee.

The Madras High Court in Para 21 of the Judgment noted, “The observation of the Supreme Court was against the Government fixing the rigid fee in respect of private institutions. The impugned Act, in no way fixes the rigid fee. It only calls upon the management to forward their fee structure with details as to how they arrive at such a fee structure. The main idea is to see as to whether under the guise of collection of fees they are indirectly collecting the capitation fee or indulging in profiteering. That is why the Act initially uses the term Approval of the fee structure and only in such cases where the committee is of the view that the fee structure proposed is exorbitant and is in the nature of capitation fee or profiteering, it intervenes in the matter and for the purpose of fixing the correct fee, the private institution is given liberty to specify their fee structure, taking into account the expenditure necessary for running the institution as well as its future needs. Thus, it proceeds to determine the fee structure thereafter. In that process, it considers the objections given by the management to the fees proposed by the Committee. The consideration of objections by the Committee cannot be treated as an empty formality. The Committee has to consider the objections made by the institution in an objective manner and if necessary, by inspecting the institution and calling upon the management to produce the records in their possession in respect of various facets and to arrive at a decision as to whether the fee determined by the Committee was the correct one or it requires modification. It cannot be ignored that the committee is a high powered committee headed by a retired High Court Judge”.

The Madras High Court in Para 35 of the Judgment while dealing with the contention of one of the petitioners that the Act runs counter to the policy of ‘common school system’ noted, ‘As can be seen from the judgment in T.M.A. Pai’s case and other cases, the Apex Court has taken cognizance of the fact that private contribution in the field of education is necessary, and Government is not in a position to have sufficient resources for providing education to all. If that is so, it is difficult to bring about a common school system. The Right to Education Act does not prevent private schools. The only thing, which is possible to be realized, is to bring in legislation of fees structure and to check exploitation in private schools, which is sought to be brought about and that being so, the Act cannot be criticized on that score”.

The Madras High Court in Para 36 of the Judgment while commenting on the reservation of 25 percent seats in the private schools for the children belonging to poor strata of society noted, “The Constitution (86th Amendment) Act, 2002 has made elementary education a fundamental right under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India. The right to free and compulsory elementary education was a long felt need, which has now been given the status of a fundamental right. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 which came into force from 1st April 2010 was a consequential legislation to translate the constitutional intent into action. The RTE Act, 2009 provides for 25% seats in private schools for children from poor families and prohibits donation or capitation fee. Though the RTE Act is Central Legislation, its effective implementation lies in the hands of the State Governments. While implementing the RTE Act from 1st April 2010, the Government of India announced that 25 percent reservation for children from economically weaker sections of the society would be operational from Class I with effect from the academic year 2011. The present impugned legislation if examined in the context of Article 21-A of the Constitution of India and RTE Act is also valid”.

It is submitted that in 1997, on the pretext of 5th Pay Commission Recommendations, the unaided private schools in Delhi increased fee and other charges ranging from 40% to 400%. This gave rise to unrest amongst the middle class parents and the parents organized themselves against the arbitrary fee hike by the unaided private schools. Needless to say that a PIL was filed in 1997 in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court which was decided on 30.10.1998 in favour of the parents. The High Court laid down the criteria and guidelines of fixing a reasonable fee structure in an unaided private school. The High Court also held that the Government is not only empowered but also has a duty to regulate fee of such schools to prevent commercialization of education and exploitation of parents/students. The schools filed appeals before the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the High Court decision which was dismissed on 27.04.2004. The schools took another opportunity through filing a review petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court seeking review of Supreme Court decision of 27.04.2004. Fortunately, the Supreme Court also dismissed the review petition on 07.08.2009 reasserting that the fee has to be justified and not arbitrary and there has also to be accountability and transparency.

In 2008, on the pretext of 6th Pay Commission Recommendations, the unaided private schools all over the country hiked fee and other charges exorbitantly and arbitrarily while Central and State Governments were just mute spectators to the same. This time, the parents all over the country organized themselves to a larger extent and openly protested against the schools and the Governments. The parents associations in many parts of the country approached their respective High Courts by way of filing writ petitions. The agitation by the parents forced some States to constitute committees to look into the issue of the arbitrary fee hike. The Government of Delhi constituted S.L Bansal Committee, the State of Maharashtra constituted Kumud Bansal Committee and the State of Goa constituted D.P.Pednekar Committee. It is respectfully submitted that all these Committees in the absence of examining the financial records of each school to determine whether the fee hike was justified or not by applying the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Modern School case, just ended up in making unsound and illogical solutions.

The Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 is providing solution to a larger extent. However, the application of the said Act is limited to the State of Tamil Nadu. In all other States, practically, there are no laws to deal with the fee hike problems. All India Parents Association (AIPA) has since long been demanding a Central Law to deal with the issue of commercialization in unaided private schoolthe Central Government has not taken any step in this regard so far. The public interest demands that the Central Government must immediately enact a Central Law may be on the lines of the Tamil Nadu Act, 2009 to check the rampant commercialization of education in unaided private schools all over the country. We need of have a uniform law for all over the country as the problem of exploitation of parents and students by the unaided private schools all over the country is more or less the same.

It is submitted that the Constitution of India mandates the State to provide free and compulsory good quality elementary education to all the children up to the age of fourteen years. It may be kept in mind that this fundamental right of every child of this country is an independent right of every child and does not depend upon the socio-economic status of the parents. It is submitted that the unaided private schools are only extended hands of the State and therefore, they are also obliged to provide free education to the children. Unfortunately, such a constitutional mandate has remained elusive all through. On the other hand, the students and the parents are being virtually looted by the greedy school managements under the patronage of the Governments. Thus, the child rights violation is rampant.

In view of above facts and circumstances, it is requested that you may kindly look into this matter on urgent basis and make necessary recommendations to the Central Government to bring a central law to regulate fees and other charges in unaided private schools all over the country.

With regards,

Ashok Agarwal, Advocate
National President, AIPA