File Submissions Against Order Allowing Private Schools to Charge Annual Fees: Delhi HC to Govt

The Delhi High Court Monday asked the Delhi government and other parties to file written submissions in pleas challenging a single judge order allowing private unaided schools to collect annual and development charges from students for the period after the lockdown ended in the national capital last year. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh listed the matter for July 14 after all the advocates said it be given a final hearing on Wednesday.

Parties may file their written submissions before the next date of the hearing. List on July 14, the bench said. The high court had on June 7 issued notices and sought responses of the Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, which represents over 450 schools, on the appeals of AAP government, students, and an NGO challenging the single judge’s May 31 order.

The division bench, however, had refused to stay the single judge’s order. It had earlier recorded the statement made by senior advocate Shyam Divan and lawyer Kamal Gupta, representing the action committee that till the next date of hearing, they will continue to follow the existing principles in relation to the collection of fees from students.

The Delhi government and the students and NGO Justice for All’ have contended that the single judge’s decision was based on incorrect facts and law. The May 31 verdict had quashed two office orders of April and August last year issued by the Directorate of Education (DoE) of the Delhi government forbidding and postponing collection of annual charges and development fees, saying they were ”illegal” and ”ultra vires” the powers of DoE stipulated under the Delhi School Education (DSE) Act and the Rules.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh and Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, had argued that the single judge gravely erred in passing the directions on the basis of a Supreme Court order relating to the collection of school fees. Singh had said the single judge overlooked the fact the Supreme Court judgment pertained to the State of Rajasthan and imposition of tuition fee was for a time when schools had physically reopened there, which is not the case in Delhi.

The counsel for the action committee had said the single judge had rightly ruled that there was no allegation of schools indulging in profiteering in this case and in the absence of such allegation, there could be no interference by the Delhi government. Advocates Khagesh Jha and Shikha Sharma Bagga, representing NGO Justice for All and various parents, had said the private schools were asking for paying charges for something which is not being provided to the students and the schools have started harassing the parents by asking to deposit money.

The single judge, in the May 31 order had said the Delhi government has no power to indefinitely postpone collection of annual charges and development fees by private unaided schools as it would unreasonably restrict their functioning. The Delhi government has contended that its orders of April and August last year were issued in the larger public interest as due to the COVID-19 lockdown people were in financial crisis.

The single judge verdict, passed on the plea by Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, said that schools shall collect annual fees with a deduction of 15 per cent as allowed by the apex court in the Indian School case. It also said the amount payable by the students has to be paid in six monthly installments from June 10.

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