Chandigarh:Sanjay Pahwa- Punjab and Haryana High Court today issued a notice of motion to the Chandigarh Administration, Ministry of HRD and all private schools of Chandigarh on a PIL by social activist Hemant Goswami. The PIL highlighted that despite being allotted land at highly subsidised prices, the private educational institutions were not providing the mandatory 15 percent free seats to economically poor students.
The petition mentioned that according to Rule 18 of “Allotment of Land to Educational Institutions (Schools), etc. on Lease-hold Basis in Chandigarh Scheme, 1996,” the Educational Societies/Institutions (Schools)/Trusts are required to reserve 15% or more seats for students belonging to economically weaker sections of the Society.
A.P.S Shergill, the counsel for the petitioner mentioned that despite the fact that under the rules, 25 percent members in the boards/ trust of all educational institutions are being nominated by Chandigarh Administration, the violation of not providing education to EWS students still continues. On this, the divisional bench of the Chief Justice ordered issuance of notice to all the private schools and asked the Chandigarh Administration to serve the same. Mr. Anupam Gupta, senior standing counsel of Chandigarh received the notice on behalf of Chandigarh Administration and agreed to further serve the notices to all the private educational institutions.
The writ petition prays that the Government should ensure that all the educational institution provide absolutely free (and same quality of) education to at-least a minimum of 15% students belonging to economically deprived segment of the society. The petition mentions that in compliance to providing free education, it shall also include 100% concession from payment of any sundry allowances, building funds, tour-picnic funds, etc. or any additional fund, by what ever name charged. Besides, all such students should be provided the same quality of education during the regular hours along with the other regular students. If the educational institutional also runs additional/evening classes and other branches, the provision of 15% free seats should be maintained at all branches and classes in equal proportion/ratio for all the different age groups and/or the academic year of study. The petition mentioned, “Students from EWS section studying in the nearest Government school can be transferred to the private educational institution, so as to ensure that the necessary condition of 15 percent free seats by private institutions is maintained at all times.”
Highlighting the anomaly and the disparity in providing education to the poor, the petitioner quoted an example of a private school, Strawberry, which otherwise claimed to provide free education to a large number of students, but actually it had hired one room in a far off remote village where students of all age group were cuddled in that one room and given occasional classes of an hour or so during the evening hours.
The petitioner also prayed that the Government should recover the complete fee and sundry charges and the profit/ surplus/ additional resources made by the educational institutions by evading to provide the minimum required 15 percent free seats to EWS students for all years of default since the inception of the educational institution; and deposit the said fund in a separate account to be used for educational purpose and fund the existing Government schools. In case of continued default, the sites of those schools should be resumed and taken over by the Government or allotted to other NGO’s/Trust.
Expressing his happiness over the initiation of the process by the High Court, Hemant said that “Chandigarh Administration has been allotting land to educational institutions run by so acclaimed charitable and non-profit societies and trusts at the rate of 500 to 1800 Rs. Square feet even though the market price of the land was over Rs. 50 crores per acre. When they have got the land in the name of charity and for teaching poor students, they can not operate like business and commercial units. If they want to run a business of education, let them purchase the land at commercial price from the open market.”