Despite orders of Supreme Court and the high court to make schools return excess fee collected from parents and roll back the hiked fee, successive governments in Delhi have failed to ensure both. A high court-appointed three-member committee headed by Justice Anil Dev Singh has ordered recovery of Rs 300 crore collected as excess fee from 535 private schools ever since its formation in 2011. The money stays with the schools as the governments have not been proactive. Even the present Kejriwal government has failed to get the order implemented, say activists.
The 10th interim report – the latest — of the committee mentions how reputed private schools in Delhi exploit parents in the name of various funds. Activists in the education sector feel that “exploitation and extortion of parents” would continue unless there’s a strong legislation. “It’s a form of extortion by these private schools, who exploit the parents by demanding development fund, building fund, administrative charges, besides an increased fee in the beginning of every academic session in Delhi. It runs into crores of rupees. The refund of more than Rs 300 crore has not yet been executed,” child right lawyer and activist Ashok Agarwal told Firstpost.
What the reports of Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee say
The committee has scrutinised the accounts of 1092 schools and submitted its findings and recommendations in its 10 reports from 2012 to 2016. The panel in its subsequent reports has asked 535 schools, including some of the top notch schools of Delhi, to refund excess amount taken under various heads with interest at the rate of nine percent per annum, besides the excess fee taken from parents every year.
“The building fee charged by the schools at the time of admission is clearly prohibited by law as it amounts to charging of capitation fee. The same charged by the schools ought to be refunded along with interest at nine percent per annum from the date of collection to the date of refund,” the committee says in its order.
Similarly, coming down heavily on the practice of charging development fund from students, the panel said, “The statute governing private unaided schools in Delhi did not provide for charging any development fee by the unaided recognised private schools in Delhi.”
Citing the pre-conditions laid down by Supreme Court, the committee mentioned that development fee can be charged if and only if it’s treated as a capital receipt; utilised for meeting capital expenditure for purchase, upgradation and replacement of furniture, fixtures and equipment; if the school maintains a specified earmarked development fund and the overall cap of the charge of development fee is 15 percent of the tuition fee.
A case in point
The 10th interim report that scrutinised accounts of 26 schools mentions that 18 schools run by DAV College Managing Committee (DAVCMC) in Delhi were found to be unjustifiably recovering development fees and building funds, and transferring funds to DAVCMC.
As per the panel’s order, these schools alone collected Rs 10.55 crore and Rs 10.62 crore in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively from students as development fund. The Committee has recommended special inspection of the accounts of DAVCMC along with the accounts of the respective schools to ascertain the true funds position for the purpose of implementation of recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission.
CAG’s 2010 report alarmed schools
In 2010, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report had slammed Delhi’s top elite private schools. The auditor held that 25 elite private schools had passed on the burden of implementing the recommendations of the 6th Pay Commission to parents, without drawing on the cash reserves they had.
“Due to the pressure we had created in 2009 through our PIL, the CAG conducted audit of top 25 private schools in Delhi and exposed their loot. The report severely criticised the schools by revealing how they manipulated accounts to earn money, but nothing has changed over the years,” remarked Agarwal, the founder of Social Jurist, a lawyers’ collective.
It’s the responsibility of Delhi government to ensure that the order of the Justice Anil Dev Singh Committee gets executed and aggrieved parents get relief. But it has not happened yet. Only a handful of schools have followed the order and refunded the excess money.
“It’s the responsibility of the Delhi government to ensure that parents get refunds as ordered by the committee. Non-payment by the schools amounts to contempt of court. But no government has shown will to do it. Kejriwal government has been blowing its own trumpet over rollback and refund based on DDA land allotment regulation, but what about more than Rs 300 crore that the panel has asked the schools to refund? Who’ll do it?” questioned Agarwal.
Meanwhile, after submitting the interim report, Justice Anil Dev Singh has recently resigned from the committee on health ground. “The committee did what it could do by scrutinizing accounts and balance sheets of 1092 schools in five years and ordering 535 schools to refund the excess amount charged. But the implementation of orders has been absolutely poor. While the government failed to get the order implemented, the public has been smartly fooled. More than Rs 3 crore has been spent on the panel; the outcome is only a report. Now with Justice Singh having resigned from the committee, its future depends on the next appointment. Implementation should be done forcefully, with revamping of the present education system. The picture is grim,” lamented Agarwal.