SC refuses to stay Delhi HC order allowing pvt schools to levy development, annual fees

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New Delhi, June 28 (PTI) The Supreme Court Monday refused to stay the Delhi High Court 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 comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Aniruddha Bose did not agree with the submission of the Directorate of Education (DoE) of Delhi government that it has the power to regulate the levy of fees by private unaided schools and as an interim order, the high court judgement permitting such a levy of annual and development charges be stayed.

“We have heard counsel for the parties. Considering the fact that the special leave petition(s) are directed against an interlocutory order, we decline to interfere and more particularly because the Division Bench of the High Court vide order dated 7.6.2021 had made it clear that the intra-court appeal may proceed for hearing before the Roster Bench on 12th July, 2021,” the bench said in its order.

The bench, however, said although it was dismissing the appeal of the Delhi government, this would not come in the adjudication of its plea by a division bench of the high court as nothing on merits have been recorded by it.

“The special leave petitions are dismissed. All contentions available to the parties can be raised before the Division Bench of the High Court in the pending appeal. The dismissal of the special leave petition(s) is not an expression of opinion on the correctness of the view expressed by the High Court or the contentions raised before us by the parties. All questions are left open. In view of the above all pending applications are disposed of,” the order said.

During the hearing also the bench indicated its views by saying, “We are not inclined to grant you (Delhi government) the stay.” Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Delhi government, vehemently sought the stay of the high court's judgement saying, “lakhs and lakhs of parents will be affected. Please don't shut us out”.

On May 31, a single-judge bench of the high court had quashed the office orders of April and August 2020 issued by DoE of the Delhi government forbidding and postponing collection of annual charges and development fees.

The Delhi government then filed the intra-court appeal before a division bench of the high court which on June 7 issued notices on the plea but had refused to stay its single-judge order allowing private unaided schools to collect annual and development charges from students.

Aggrieved by the refusal of stay, the DoE moved the top court saying that grave injustice would be done if the stay was not granted as the government had already allowed such institutions to keep collecting 100 percent of tuition fees.

At the outset, senior advocates Shyam Divan and N K Kaul, appearing for bodies representing private schools, opposed the Delhi government's appeal.

They said the single-judge bench of the high court, on May 31, had taken note of an apex court's judgement in the ''Indian School, Jodhpur vs State of Rajasthan, in which it was held that the schools shall collect annual fees with a deduction of 15 per cent and had applied that in the instant case.

Singh said the apex court's judgement was not applicable in Delhi's context as it has been held in the past that DoE is duly empowered to decide the issue of levy of fees and moreover, the private schools have already been allowed to charge tuition fees.

Referring to a report of the Duggal panel, the senior counsel for Delhi government said the schools have to meet all their expenses from funds collected under the head of tuition fees which have been allowed to be levied fully by the administration.

“Schools were asked to waive only annual charges and development fees,” Singh said.

On June 7, while refusing to stay the May 31 order of the single judge allowing private unaided schools to collect annual and development charges, the division bench had observed that if the AAP government was so populist, it can help schools with some funds.

“Don't be just a populist government. Give money to schools also. They also need money to run the schools. They have to pay taxes also... If you want to be such a populist government, please help them. Do something, who is stopping you,” the division bench of the high court had said.

The May 31 verdict had quashed two office orders of April and August last year issued by the DoE 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. PTI SJK MNL ABA SA

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