CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Tuesday decided to first resolve the question as to whether the State government has the power to regulate fees of private schools before closing hearing on the school fee waiver row.
The Court was hearing three PILs which had sought waiver of fees for students of private schools in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. The three PILs were filed by Odisha Abhibhabak Mahasangha, Mohamed Mustaq and Prahallad Rout.
The Court took up the question for adjudication after arguments and counter arguments were raised over the government’s power to regulate fees of private schools by Odisha Abhibhabak Mahasangh and the Association of Orissa ICSE Schools respectively.
The question on the State’s power to regulate school fees cropped up with the government clarifying before the Court that it has no mechanism either at State or district level for fixation of fee for unaided private schools.
While it was argued on behalf of the Abhibhabak Mahasangha that the government has the power to regulate school fees, the Association of Orissa ICSE Schools as an intervener in the case opposed it saying the government has no power on such matter. As another intervener in the case, the Regional Office of DAV Institutions (Odisha Zone I and II) also took the same stand.
The division bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Biswanath Rath fixed January 7 for further hearing on it. The Mahasangh argued that a resolution issued by the School and Mass Education department on September 23, 1996 which is ‘still in vogue’ gives the State the power to regulate the fees being charged by private schools.
But the Association of Orissa ICSE Schools contended before the Court that the resolution does not empower the State to regulate the fee structure of the private English medium schools. It only keeps a rider on the institution not to charge capitation fees or voluntary donation for gaining admission in the school. Besides, the resolution had lost its significance with the introduction of RTE Act, it was argued on behalf of the association.