Payback time!

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602 private schools across Delhi owe their students Rs 178 crore worth of refund – an amount they had charged as excess fees. Now, they have to return it

Rs 178 crore: This is the humongous amount that private schools across Delhi had collected from their students as excess fees. Now, they have to give the money back.

This was done according to recommendations by a fee review committee headed by Justice Anil Devset up by the Directorate of Education, Delhi. The said committee has recommended a total of 602 schools to refund the excess amount of fees they had taken from students. This total amount came to around Rs 178 crore.

Out of these 602 schools, 254 schools charged fees giving the reason that they were taking the extra fees to meet the demands mentioned in the Sixth Pay Commission — which said that the schools had to invest a prescribed amount of money on infrastructural developments and thus they could charge a certain amount of money in addition to the fees, if they did not have the prescribed amount in their funds.

However, what these schools did is that they charged this development fee, even though they had enough cash in their school funds. The court has directed these schools to return the money to the students with an interest rate of 9%.

As many as 348 out of these 602 schools were charging fees in excess of the prescribed amount, by saying that they had implemented the recommendations made by the Sixth Pay Commission which said that the schools could only increase the fees based on five categories, namely improvement in education quality, infrastructural developments etc. However, the fee review committee could not provide any proof of their implementations. In case of such schools, a penalty interest rate of 10% has been imposed over the amount that has to be refunded.

Five schools out of these 602 schools had taken excess fee from the students, saying that they had to pay off the arrear salaries of their teaching and non-teaching staff which they could not pay due to shortage of funds. However, what they not clear the full amount of arrear salaries of their staff despite taking fees from the students. When the committee confronted these schools, they paid the staff’s salary immediately, which amounted to Rs 1.9 crore.

No less than 183 of the 602 schools claimed that they had not increased the fee and thus they were not prone to investigation by the committee. But when their salary records, account books and other such financial documents were examined, it was found that they had taken extra fees and their claim was completely false. These false claims, according to the report, will be personally examined by the Director of Education of the Delhi Government, and severe penalty will be imposed on them.

The fee review committee has so far submitted reports of 1,216 out of the 1,290 non-aided private schools in the city. The remaining 74 could not be submitted as the reports are either in progress or in most cases, the schools themselves have not submitted any report at all, even though the committee had recommended to do so in early May 2018.

The committee in the report also mentions that the schools need to submit their reports by 31st December, 2018, or else severe action will be taken.
However, the situation is not all dismal.

Early this year, the committee had recommended that 575 schools must return the arrear and excess fees that they had taken from their students. Five schools have refunded this excess amount, which stands at Rs 28 lakh.

The committee also found out that 15 schools had charged extra fees, but the hike was totally justified. These schools did not have enough funds, and hence charged 15% hilke on their tuition fees – which was the maximum as permitted by the fee review committee. These schools also asked the committee if they could increase the hike as they were short of funds for infrastructural developments. After thorough examination, the committee granted a certain amount of hike over the permissible limit. The amount of such fees regularised by the government comes to Rs 6.8 crore.

Ashok Aggarwal, a seasoned advocate, who specialises in cases related to education, says that this move by the Directorate of Education was a welcome step. “This is a positive step taken by the government to ensure that these schools do not turn education into a business monopoly”, he says.

However, he is worried that the schools will once again not pay heed to this order. “Such an order was also passed early this year, but only 28 lakhs was recovered, while hundreds of crores are still pending”, he says. “However, if the government is persistent enough all this amount will definitely be recovered”, concludes Aggarwal.

Some of the listed schools

  • Modern School, Barakhamba Road
  • Delhi Public School, RK Puram
  • Sanskriti School, Chanakyapuri
  • Mahavir Model School, Indraprastha
  • Guru Harkishen Public School, India Gate
  • DAV Public School, Srestha Vihar
  • St Xavier’s Sr Secondary School, Raj Niwas Marg
  • Tagore International School, Vasant Vihar
  • GD Goenka Public School, Vasant Kunj
  • Jindal Public School, Dasrathkunj
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