High Court Stays FFRC Order Restraining Private Schools From Charging Annual Fee

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court on Tuesday stayed an order of Committee for Fixation and Regulation of Fee of Private Schools, J&K, Srinagar (FFRC) in terms of which it had restrained all the school managements of the private schools from charging and collecting annual fee for the period of November 2022 to March, 2023, Live Law reported.

“The impugned order dated 2nd of November, 2022 shall remain in abeyance till such time a fresh decision is taken by the Committee for Fixation and Regulation of Fee of Private Schools (FFRC) after hearing the petitioner-schools,” the court said according to report.

The directions were passed by a division bench of Chief Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Vinod Chatterji while hearing a plea by Tyndale Biscoe School and other private Schools challenging FFRC order on the ground that it is not only bad in law but the same is also contrary to the mandate of Section 20E of the J&K School Education Act, 2002, Circular issued by the Government in the School Education Department on May 14, 2020 as well as order issued by FFRC on January 28, 2019 itself.

The petitioners counsel, Sunil Sethi pleaded that the private schools have been permitted to charge annual fee which includes the annual depreciation of the investment made for setting up of the school concerned clubbed with repair and maintenance costs and all other one-time fee such as Examination fee, Computer fee, Sports fee, etc., wherever applicable.

He submitted that mere change in the academic session by the government does not, in any manner, disentitle the petitioners to charge the annual fee.

Sethi further contended that the FFRC was informed that due to the government orders implementing a uniform academic calendar, the current session will be of seventeen months but the petitioners will only charge annual fee from students for five months viz. November 2022 to March 2023 on monthly and prorata basis as per the fee structure of the petitioner-schools already approved by none other than the FFRC itself.

He also contended that the impugned order had been issued without hearing the petitioner schools.

The court after perusing the material on record and hearing the counsel noted that the order has been issued by the FFRC without giving adequate opportunity of hearing to the petitioner-schools.

The court passed the directions after taking assistance of Advocate General, D. C. Raina, who submitted that in the event the court comes to the conclusion that no hearing has been given to the petitioner schools before issuance of the order, “the proper course for the Court would be to remand the case back to the FFRC for fresh decision after hearing all concerned.”

The bench directed the private schools to approach the FFRC by Thursday, (Nov 17) and furnish supplementary material as may be available to them, if required, in support of their claim.

The bench further directed the FFRC to hear the petitioner schools on Friday (Nov 18) and pass a fresh order accordingly, which shall govern the claim of the petitioner schools for the purpose of charging or otherwise of the annual fee by the management of the private schools for the period between November to March.

Disposing of a plea, the bench directed the FFRC to hear the petitioner schools on Friday and pass a fresh order accordingly, reported Live Law.

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