On July 15, Maharashtra state brought cheer to parents by issuing a government resolution (GR) to rein in the arbitrary ways of school managements. The GR prohibited schools from hiking fees for a certain period of time, and not without the approval of parent-teacher associations. It also compelled managements to set up a website disclosing their balance sheets. But the government, it seems, didn’t mean to take its own resolution seriously.
On Tuesday, it told the Bombay high court that the GR was not completely binding on schools. The entire exercise was done only because parents made complaints. Otherwise, the government was least interested in interfering (in the fee structure of private unaided schools), Dhairyasheel Nalavade, the government pleader, told the court.
“The items of expenditures mentioned in the GR are only illustrative and are not completely binding on unaided schools. The GR was issued to monitor commercialisation in private educational institutes,’’ Nalavade said.
A division bench of justices DK Deshmukh and RP Sondurbaldota has now directed the state government to make the said statement on an affidavit. The government will file it by August 25.
But, in yet another contradiction, school education minister Balasaheb Thorat told DNA, “The GR is binding and we are planning to strengthen it even more. In fact, we are trying to see if it can be made into a law.”
Representing the association of private unaided schools, senior counsel Fredun Devitre argued: “The said GR is completely contradictory to the judgment of Supreme Court in TMA Pai case.
Through this GR, the government is trying to bring aided and unaided schools to uniformity. But this is unconstitutional and against my right to decide the fee structure.”
He argued that if government thought that certain private schools were indulging in profit making, then they should go against them and not generalise the issue. The petitioners also pointed out that in order to provide quality education, the private schools have to charge higher fees.
“We need to pay better and higher salary to teachers to maintain better standard of education,” Devitre argued.
Justice DK Deshmukh questioned the state about their stand on salaries to be paid to primary school teachers. “You make a statement in this court. What will apply for deciding salaries of teachers? Your GR or the provisions in rules? You have never amended the rules during fifth pay commission or sixth pay commission,” observed justice Deshmukh.
The court also questioned if the government has prescribed any staffing pattern in the new GR. The court has now directed the state not to take any penal action against the members of petitioners in case of non-implementation of GR till August 30, when the case will be heard next.
The petition came up for hearing after the GR came in force from August 15. Earlier, the government had agreed to postpone the implementation of GR for one month.
Jayant Jain, from the Forum for Fairness in Education, however, said, “The state government should have appointed a good lawyer to fight the case out. The lawyer was confused and was not sure about what he was arguing in the court. However, the state is now asked to file an affidavit till August 30. Till then, the state government cannot penalise schools, who cannot hike fees till then.”