The Delhi High Court today stayed its single judge order which has held that installation of air conditioners (AC) in schools of the national capital cannot be a ground to hike tuition fees to pay electricity charges. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gital Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra, however, was of the view that 15 per cent hike in tuition fees by school towards power charges and running of the AC system they had installed, was not appropriate. "There may be many parents who cannot afford to even pay one per cent of the enhanced fees by the schools," the bench orally observed. It asked two city-based schools, challenging the single judge order declining their decision to hike tuition fees to pay electricity charges, whether they wanted to force the parents out of the schools. It, however, said that till the next date, it will stay the verdict of the single judge who had said that providing AC facilities in the school cannot be connected with the curricular or co-curricular activities. The division bench also directed the schools that it will not insist on parents to pay any enhanced fees till pending of the appeal before it. To this, the counsel for the two schools submitted that they have not enhanced any fees since 2015-16 academic year. The bench issued notice to the Delhi government on the schools' appeal and sought their stand in this regard. The single judge ruling had come while dismissing the plea of the schools against a June 16, 2016, order of the Delhi government's Directorate of Education (DoE) holding that the 15 per cent hike in tuition fees was illegal. The schools had challenged the order before the single judge saying, they hiked the tuition fee to meet the expenses incurred in maintaining and running the AC system and in paying electricity bills for the same, which are all recurring expenses in the nature of revenue expenses. The schools had also claimed that AC have been installed for an academic purpose, the running cost for the same is thus a revenue expense for improvement of curricular facilities. Disagreeing with the schools, the court said the DoE's order "rightly held" that the charges for the electricity bill cannot be included in tuition fees and overheads, nor it is expenses on play-ground, sports equipment, cultural activities etc.
And also on co-curricular activities. The electricity bills can only be claimed under the head annual charges. The schools had also contended that if the charges can be claimed under annual charges and not tuition fees, then they have not done anything illegal. Rejecting the argument, the single judge had said, "The same does not appeal to this court, more so when there is a finding in the impugned order (of DoE) that the schools have already increased annual charges in the session 2015-2016. The school could not have further claimed the electricity charges under the head annual charges.
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