The Delhi High Court Wednesday stayed till April 8 interim hike in fees by private unaided schools in the national capital on a plea of the AAP government challenging its single judge order allowing the same.
A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta also issued notice and sought response of Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, in which a number of private schools are members.
The Delhi government on Tuesday had challenged in the HC its single judge order allowing private unaided schools in the national capital to go ahead with the interim hike in fees to implement the recommendations of the Seventh Central Pay Commission on salaries of teachers and other employees.
The single judge on March 15 had permitted the interim fee hike by quashing a Delhi government circular of April 13 last year, which had prohibited private unaided schools functioning on government land from hiking tuition amounts without approval of the Directorate of Education (DoE).
The government order was selectively applied to private schools which were on government land and as per a 'land clause' in the lease agreement, they needed to seek prior approval of the DoE before hiking fees.
The division bench on Wednesday said that till April 8, the next date of hearing, none of the 'land clause' schools will proceed to collect the interim hiked fee.
It also asked the Delhi government to produce on the next date, the orders passed by it on the proposals given by different 'land clause' schools for hiking fees.
The Delhi government, through its standing counsel Ramesh Singh and additional standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi, said the findings of the single judge that the interim fee hike was perfectly in order in view of an earlier order of the high court is "ex-facie unsustainable".
Seeking to set aside the order of the single judge, the government said the court had erred in holding that no prior approval of DoE was required in case of interim fee hike as the same was not an act of fee increase by the school, but a dispensation by the department itself.
"The single judge failed to appreciate the interim fee hike as contemplated in the circular of October 17, 2017 could not have obviated the mandatory requirement of prior approval in DDA land clause cases, even though, the same was a dispensation by the DoE as the said dispensation was merely an interim measure subject to detailed scrutiny and prior approval of the DoE once the accounts of the schools have been scrutinised," the Delhi government said in its appeal.
The single judge, while setting aside the April last year circular, had said the statements of fees submitted by private schools would be subject to scrutiny by the DoE "with a view to ensuring that the schools were not indulging in commercialisation of education by resorting to profiteering, or charging of capitation fee".
"The decision for allowing an interim fee hike, as contained in the order dated October 17, 2017, being that of the DoE, there was no justification for jettisoning the said order, in respect of schools governed by the 'land clause', as was done by the impugned order dated April 13, 2018. The impugned order, dated April 13, 2018, therefore, cannot sustain...and is, accordingly, quashed and set aside.
"...the 'interim fee hike' would operate immediately, in favour of all private unaided schools, without the requirement of any prior approval," the court had said in its 173-page judgement allowing the plea of the Action Committee which had challenged the circular.
The court had also made it clear that "if any school is, in fact, found to be indulging in commercialisation of education, the DoE would be well within its rights in proceeding, against such institution, in accordance with law, and keeping in mind the provisions of the Delhi Schools Education Act and Rules".
The Action Committee, in its plea filed through advocate Kamal Gupta, had contended that the Delhi Schools Education Act equalised all schools, in the matter of pay and allowances to be granted to teachers and employees and therefore, there was no justification to selectively withdraw the October 17, 2017 order which permitted an interim hike of fees to implement the 7th CPC recommendations.
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