In a big jolt to all self-financed schools, the Gujarat High Court upheld the Gujarat Self Finance Schools (Fees Regulations) Act, 2017 (GSFS) and its rules on Wednesday.The First Division Bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice Vipul Pancholi, while dismissing more than three dozen petitions of 2,500 private schools, concluded that the state government was competent to pass and implement such Acts and decide the administrative matters of schools affiliated with the central, international and the ISCE board. The Bench also said that the special status of minority schools was not violated by the Act.Though the court concluded that the Act was legal and constitutional, it also kept a window open for private schools’ associations to approach the competent authority for a review of the current fee structure.The associations can also ask for a hike against the services they provide to their students. However, the competent authority will have to take a decision witihin six weeks from the date of filing proposals. But, such proposals should not amount to exorbitant fees or profiteering.Court also rejected all schools’ request to stay the operative part of the judgment so that they can approach the Supreme Court and challenge the order. Those schools which have submitted their proposals and want to add any further information seeking review can submit the same within three weeks.Advocate General Kamal Trivedi while defending the state action had submitted that the RTE Act permits self-financed school to notify any fee, whereas the state Act under challenge seeks to put restrictions on these schools to charge any fees. RTE Act prohibits the capitation of fees.Appearing for parents Advocate Amit Panchal had submitted that the whole intention of the Act is to prevent commercialisation of education in all the schools, including the self-financed schools. He further submitted that the court should direct the state to implement the Act at the earliest.OPERATIVE PART OF THE JUDGMENTThe Act is not in violation of the equality of the Constitution The rules of the Act are not in the violation of the Article 30 of Constitution with regard to the minority institution Constitution of Fees Regulatory Committee and Fees Revision Committee under the Act are not unconstitutional as alleged by the petitioners Schools can put proposals within three weeks to the competent authority, which will take further action in accordance with the law.
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