AHMEDABAD : A debate has been raging over the powers and jurisdiction of fee regulatory bodies and over the demand to give representation to parents in them. Moreover, a demand has arisen to form school-level fee regulatory committees apart from zonal or state-level committees. The resolutions to these debates are bound to be complex if the perspective of all stakeholders — parents, teachers, school owners, and regulators — are to be considered.
Recently, a Delhi think tank, Centre for Civil Society, compared fee regulatory models of seven states, including that of Tamil Nadu which was the pioneer and established a fee regulatory law in 2009. In Maharashtra and Rajasthan, district fee regulatory committees have powers to search and seize. These states allow committee members to enter and inspect private schools at any time.
The study found that some regulations provide “criteria to guide the fixation of fees by a statutory committee, such as in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, while others choose to put in place safeguards to prevent profiteering, such as in Delhi and Andhra Pradesh.” Furthermore, states such as Maharashtra and Rajasthan delegate the fixation of fees to school-level committees to deal with disagreements. Gujarat, on the other hand, chooses to establish fee ceilings in contrast to other states. The Gujarat fee caps are Rs 15,000 for the primary section; Rs 25,000 for the secondary general stream; and Rs 30,000 for the secondary science stream. Andhra Pradesh allows a 12% hike over the previous year’s fees, while Tamil Nadu accepts a 10% hike.
As for penalties, Tamil Nadu imposes imprisonment for a term between three and seven years, and a fine up to Rs 5,000, and stipulates the refund of excess fees. Jayant Patel, a student from Gujarat University who is analyzing fee regulatory bodies of various states, said: “Most of the bureaucratic and quasi-judicial structures of fee regulatory bodies across seven states is the same. However, these bodies very much differ in their function and powers.”