City govt passes law to audit school accounts, check high fees

Last Updated : 20 November 2015, 21:15 IST

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The Delhi government on Friday passed a legislation to allow audit of private schools’ accounts by a panel to check exorbitant fees, diversion of fees for non-educational purposes and public scrutiny of the fee structure.

A jail term of three years and a minimum fine of Rs 50,000 will be the penalty for violation. Apart from school managements, chartered accountants involved in fudging of accounts shall also be penalised.

Another Bill for stopping interviews of students seeking admission in school and capitation fee was also presented in the Assembly, along with the government’s announcement to create 8,000 new classrooms and build 20 new schools soon.

The Opposition BJP walked out in protest against introduction of the Delhi School Education Bill—aimed at stopping interviews during admission and capitation fee—without seeking prior approval of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and the Central Government.
Later, the Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015—that promises transparency through audit of school accounts by a committee—was passed by a voice vote and thumping of desk.

The fate of the bill would depend on the stand taken by Jung when it is sent to him after being passed in the House. The BJP has alleged a procedural anomaly in the proceedings.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said: “The government respects autonomy of schools, but financial irregularity shall be punished very stringently.”

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was not present in the House, tweeted immediately after the legislation was passed and said: “Congratulations Manish for presenting such huge systemic reforms in education. Proud of u”

Sisodia said the committee that would audit accounts of schools would either be headed by a retired high court judge or a retired district judge.

“We want to restore the public trust in educational institutions and check private schools which are operating like commercial shops,” he said.

The deputy chief minister said the penalties for violators of the provisions have been made realistic.

The existing provisions provide for cancellation of the registration of a school but this puts the teachers and students in difficulty. Therefore, we are bringing in a provision of collecting fees from the school management, he said.

As per the provisions of the legislation, “every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was responsible...for conduct of the business of the management, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence”.

Dispelling doubts over possible harassment of institutions, Sisodia said: “The government will not infringe upon the autonomy of private schools that are running honestly. They have no need to be concerned.”

He said the panel empowered to examine the accounts will have the mandate to direct refund of the excess fee collected by the school.

The Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 which Sisodia presented in the House, is aimed at making the existing “rules more practical rather than being moralistic”. The Bill is likely to be discussed and passed during the special sitting of the House on December 1 and 2.

The deputy CM said smaller schools shall be allowed to pay less fee to teachers but there will be strict action against capitation fee or subjecting child or parent to any screening procedure during admission to any class.

The schools will be fined Rs 5 lakh for first contravention and Rs 10 lakh for each subsequent contravention, he said

The Bill also has a provision to allow the director of education to take over the management of the school or withdraw the recognition granted to the defaulting school.

Published 20 November 2015, 20:43 IST

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