HC pulls up govt, halts private schools from charging Sep-Oct fees

Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday came down heavily on the government after private schools asked parents to deposit the fees for September-October of last year despite its directions not to charge the fees until decided on by a panel headed by a retired judge of the state’s highest court.
Taking strong exception to the wrong interpretation of its orders, the HC also issued a contempt notice to private schools’ union for charging the fees for the two months. As soon as the court assembled for the day’s proceedings, advocate S Ratanpuri moved an application by parents’ body before a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey to list the application for contempt proceedings against Commissioner Secretary Education Department Shalin Kabra and president of Unaided Private Schools Coordination Committee G N War.
The court allowed Ratanpuri’s submissions and summoned joint director school education department Abid Rashid Shah to appear before it and explain his position in light of an advertisement issued by unaided private schools in a local daily on July 7.
Abid turned up before the bench, and denied any information about the contents of the advertisement.
Subsequently, the court asked him to submit an affidavit even as it directed Additional Advocate General SA Naik to summon the Commissioner Secretary to appear before it at 2 pm to explain his position about the non-compliance of its order regarding the nomination of a retired judge of the HC as chairman of a committee set up in 2013 to fix the fee structure of private schools in the state.
As the court assembled again, the Commissioner Secretary, Shalin Kabra, appeared in person and stated that the process to nominate a retired judge as chairman of the panel had been initiated and within a short period, the chairman would be nominated. He also assured the court that a circular would be issued by the department, stating that fees for September and October will not allowed to be collected by school managements unless cleared by the committee.
He also submitted that no school would be allowed to increase fees and would be asked to charge it as it was in August 2014, in consonance with the court’s directions. Subsequently, the court directed him to file a compliance report by producing the circular before it on July 14. “For purpose of nomination of the retired judge, you (Commissioner Secretary) may take some more time,” the court said.
It also issued a notice to president of Unaided Private Schools Coordination Committee GN War on the petition, seeking contempt of court proceedings against him.
After last year’s floods, the court issued directions to all the schools not to charge tuition and bus fee from students for the months of September and October. And if any school had already charged the fee, the court directed that the same may be adjusted in future months.
While disposing of the PIL, the court last month also directed schools not to increase the tuition fee as well as bus fee and charge it as in vogue in August last year, until it was decided by the panel. The PIL filed by parents’ body had also charged the schools of fleecing them by selling books, stationary, identity cards to students at exorbitant costs. The counsel for the petitioner said the management of private schools not only started pressurising the students to pay the fees for the two months but also enhanced it at exorbitant rates.
Meanwhile, the joint director education department Abid Rashid Shah filed the affidavit, stating the advertisement was issued by unaided private schools without his knowledge and with ‘malafide intent’. “A perception is sought to be created that (I) have given permission to charge fees for September and October. This is totally wrong, malafide and without my knowledge,” the officer said.
“Explicit directions have been given to private school owners not to prevent any pupil from sitting in the examination. (They) were also asked not to charge fees for September and October. However, the private schools misinterpreted the HC judgment with malafide intent,” he added.