HC: Individual parents can’t challenge hike in school fees

PUBLISH DATE 22nd August 2018

Individual parents cannot challenge a school fee hike before the divisional fee regulatory committee (DFRC), the Bombay high court has ruled. A division bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Bharati Dangre dismissed a petition seeking a change in the law so that a parent aggrieved by a fee hike in a school can approach the regulator.

The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act (MEIA) gives only the management or the executive committee comprising teachers and PTA representatives to challenge a fee hike order before the DFRC or the revision committee.

The court was hearing a petition filed by parents of a school in Khed, which had hiked fees by 25% for 2016-2017.

School fee law recognises parents’ stake: Court

The bench said, “We do not find that the law is one-sided or that there is a frustration of its object and purpose totally if parents do not have the right of appeal as guaranteed to the management."

“Parents definitely have a stake, but they are given that legal status, respect and regard by placing them in the executive committee itself. The law is in that sense progressive for it entrusts the executive committee with important functions and directs them to be performed coupled with the duties to be discharged, which ordinarily could not have been discharged by these stakeholders. In several such laws, the stakeholders and the real ones, namely, students and parents, were excluded and kept out. In the present law, they are not excluded," the judges said.

Under the MEIA, the state has powers to regulate the fees of government and aided schools. In the case of private unaided educational institutions, the management has to place the proposed fee hike before the executive committee. The panel is headed by the school principal and comprises representatives of parents and teachers. If the difference between the fees proposed by the management and that approved by the executive committee is less than 15%, the amount finalised by the panel prevails. The management can file an appeal before the DFRC. Both the management and executive committee can file a challenge to the DFRC's decision before the revision committee headed by a retired HC judge.

The petition contended that the law was unconstitutional as it discriminated against parents, who did not have the right to challenge a school fee hike before the regulator. The court said that parents were included in the executive committee and had a say on the issue. “The aggrieved parents, who are part and parcel of the executive committee, can definitely appeal in the event the management’s proposed fees are upheld by the DFRC,” said the court. “When the executive committee fails to discharge its statutory duty and function, then it can hardly complain.”

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