Court warns official of jail over failure to revive fee panel

SRINAGAR: The J&K high court warned commissioner secretary to state’s education department of jail on Monday over his failure to appoint a former judge of the court as the head of a panel that would decide fee structure for private schools.
Soon after the hearing of contempt petition, filed by a parents’ organisation, began before a bench of chief justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and justice Hasnain Massodi, additional advocate general SA Naik requested the court to defer it till Thursday.
He said commissioner secretary Shaleen Kabra was outside the state in connection with some personal assignment and would be able to appear before the court only on June 23.
“What is the difficulty in appointing the chairman of the committee? Why haven’t you complied with the directions and appointed a retired judge of (this) court as the chairman as was directed to be done within a week’s time on June 1?” the bench asked Naik.
Naik replied, “Three judges have refused and four other judges have been nominated to be shortlisted as members of some other commission (possibly SAC). Kindly post the matter on July 23.”
“Who is not obeying the orders of this court? Name the officer,” the bench responded.
“Sir, we are obeying the orders,” Naik replied.
“Where is the compliance then? You should give the list of all the judges whom you have approached. In case no judge from J&K is available, you can approach a judge from outside the state as suggested by senior lawyer (ZA Shah),” the bench said.
“No sir, we have not so far approached all the judges in the state for their consent,” Naik said, and again pleaded the court to post the case on Thursday.
“Name the officer who is not implementing the court directions. In default, the secretary will go to jail,” the court retorted.
“We will furnish the complete details about the steps taken from June 1 and the reasons as to why appointment of the judge was delayed,” Naik said.
Subsequently, the petition was listed for hearing on June 23 with a direction to the commissioner secretary to remain present before the court.
“It is made clear that an affidavit to be filed shall give all the details about the steps taken from June 1 (with regard to appointment of the chairman,” the court added.
Meanwhile in another direction, the division bench rejected an application filed by Shaleen Kabra, commissioner secretary to state’s education department, seeking extension in time for reviving the fee fixation panel in the state.
“What steps have been taken by the state government for complying with the directions has not been stated (in the application),” the bench said and rejected plea seeking more time.
On June 1, the division bench had directed the government to nominate a former judge of the J&K high court as chairman of the aborted committee set up in 2013 to fix fee structure of private schools in the state.
The committee couldn’t take off because on 11 October 2013, the high court, hearing a petition by unaided private schools, stayed the government order, which had announced its constitution with justice (retired) Bilal Nazki as its chairman.
Subsequently, justice Nazki moved to Bihar to head its State Human Rights Commission in March last year and the panel remained in limbo before the court dismissed a petition filed by Unaided Private Schools’ Coordination Committee, which had challenged the formation of the fee-fixing panel.
The court has also directed president of the Unaided Private Schools Coordination Committee GN War to file statement of facts on the petition, seeking contempt of court proceedings against him.