Srinagar, May 4: Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) has hailed Supreme Court judgment wherein it has held that States cannot impinge on the autonomy of private unaided schools to fix and collect ‘just’ and ‘permissible’ school fees from parents, especially in the name of the pandemic.
The Association said that the judgment is the vindication of the stand of schools where they have been providing quality education in lieu of a justifiable fee. “It is a welcome judgment wherein the Supreme Court has protected our rights and autonomy. In a place like Kashmir, Private Schools have been a shining example of success stories. These schools came to the rescue of education sector and the society in whole at a time when the entire education sector had collapsed. With their dedication and hardwork Private Schools were instrumental in shaping lives of lakhs of students for better,” said G N Var president PSAJK, as per a statement issued to Srinagar-based news agency Global News Service (GNS). “However over the last few years private schools had to endure interference from different quarters thus affecting their work. Be it administration, police or any other department everyone had been dictating terms to the schools which was not according to any law or rule. The work of private schools had hugely suffered due to this illegal interference.”
The Association said that it is a good thing that Supreme Court had taken note of such rights violations of private schools and it will help the schools to focus on education and further improve their standards. “In the judgement Schools have been asked to desist from unnecessary profiteering. We too believe in the same and will always work towards the mutual benefit of all stakeholders including the parents of students,” said Var.
Pertinently safeguarding the autonomy schools a Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said in a 128-page judgment, “It is one thing to say the State may regulate the fee structure of private unaided schools to ensure that the school management does not indulge in profiteering and commercialisation, but in the guise of exercise of that power, it cannot transcend the line of regulation and impinge upon the autonomy of the school to fix and collect ‘just’ and ‘permissible’ school fees from its students.”
The judgment had come on the basis of a series of appeals filed by private unaided schools in Rajasthan against government notifications to defer collection of fees, including reduction of fee, in view of the reduction of syllabus by the respective Boards due to the aftermath of the pandemic (lockdown) from March 2020.
The court agreed with the school managements that States do not have any authority under the 2005 Act to direct changes in the fee structure because of COVID-19. “The determination of school fee structure [which includes reduction of fixed fee for the relevant period] is the exclusive prerogative of the school management running a private unaided school, it is not open to the Legislature to make a law touching upon that aspect except to provide statutory mechanism to regulate fees for ensuring that it does not result in profiteering and commercialisation by the school management,” the judgment noted.
Justice Khanwilkar, who authored the verdict for the Bench, noted that it was a different matter, if as a policy, the State government takes the responsibility to subsidise the fees of students of private unaided schools, but the State cannot arrogate power to itself much less to issue directions [to managements to collect reduced fee for the academic year concerned]”. (GNS)