Four pvt schools flouted fire safety, construction norms: House Panel
Four top City private schools were found to have committed financial irregularities, violated safety norms, engaged in unauthorised construction on school premises, and even encroached land, a report filed by a Delhi Assembly panel stated.
The report filed by the Petitions Committee, under Pankaj Pushkar and Saurabh Bhardwaj, was adopted by the House in the Assembly on Tuesday. The four schools mentioned in the report are The Indian School in Sadiq Nagar, Apeejay School in Sheikh Sarai, KR Mangalam World School in Greater Kailash, and Summer Fields School in Kailash Colony.
In its report on The Indian School, the committee recommended that directorate of education (DoE) should take over management of the school over an array of issues, including arbitrary fee hike despite orders by the court and education department. It also asked for the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) to seal illegal portions of the school as it was found to have “significant additions and alterations” including a basement being used as classroom and office space. The school was also found to have violated fire and Life safety provisions prescribed by Delhi Fire Service Act 2007. The committee also said the principal misled the committee during inspection and was non-cooperative.
Responding to queries put forward by HT, the school said, “Our school land lease does not contain any clause for seeking prior government approval for fee increase. It has not violated any rules of the DSEAR 1973 [Delhi School Education Act and Rules] as falsely alleged by the committee. We have also not misled any authority. In fact, we have gone to court on this matter and have obtained several stay orders to prevent any coercive action by the various government agencies by the Delhi High Court.”
The committee said that a detailed financial audit of Apeejay School’s accounts revealed that along with escalating fee without necessary permission it had been utilising the funds for “construction of building, creating assets of the society, and charging the same from the students without disclosing the fee bifurcation.” The school was also functioning without an NOC from Delhi Fire Services.
DOE must ensure that the surplus amount of around ?30 crore as calculated in the audit report, should be returned to the respective parents within a period of 90 days of the adoption of the report, the committee stated.
Apeejay school said it had not received a copy of the report submitted in the Assembly. “The subject matter before the Petitions Committee is already sub judice before the Delhi High Court and next date of hearing is April 20, 2020. We have placed the said fact before the Petitions Committee vide a written Representation dated November 27,” the school said, adding it does not require permission from the Directorate of Education to revise its fee annually. “This has been duly acknowledged and verified by DOE.” It also denied tactics of “arm-twisting” saying 92% have paid fees and have “expressed satisfaction on school operations.”
The reported stated that KR Mangalam and Summer Field schools, too suffered from such irregularities. Despite repeated attempts, these two school did not respond to requests seeking a comment.
Greater Kailash MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj, chairperson of the committee, said, “We have no problem in schools paying their teachers as per 7th Pay Commission. But schools have justify the fee hike and show that they don’t have enough money. This can easily be done by auditing financial records but schools cause delay by not providing these reports under some pretext. We have depositions where it was learnt that students were asked to stay out of classes if the hiked fee was not paid.”
MLA Bhardwaj said, “Their financial records were submitted Monday and they will be audited. If they have enough funds to pay teachers, they cannot raise fee. If they have deficits, then they will be allowed to raise the fee accordingly and not arbitrarily,” he said.
The GK MLA also added that some of these schools were also found to have acquired more land than what they had bought. “We have recommended that government agencies identify these lands and take it back along with charging rent from the school,” he said.