Citizens' Issues
HC says government cannot control fee structure of private, unaided schools

Mumbai's Diamond Jubilee High School declined the aid from state government and converted itself into private unaided school affiliated with ICSE

The Bombay High Court has held that the government would have no say in controlling fee structure of private unaided schools. The Court said, such schools do not get grant-in-aid but spend huge amount of money from their own funds to create facilities and extra-curricular activities for students.


Hearing a petition filed by Diamond Jubilee High School in Mazgaon justices SJ Vajifdar and MS Sonak held that there was nothing to indicate that the petitioners (school authorities) had acted malafide.


Accordingly, the court set aside an order passed by the Education Department of Maharashtra directing a private unaided school in Mumbai to refund fees to a group of students from academic year 2006-07 to 2011-12 as the school did not get affiliation to ICSE.


Diamond Jubilee High School, a minority educational institution, was affiliated to the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (SSCE Board) up to academic year 2006-07. The school was receiving aid from the Government till this period. However, thereafter it decided to decline aid and convert itself into a private unaided school.


The school resolved to convert affiliation from SSCE Board to ICSE, in respect of secondary section of the school, that is, from standard ‘V’ onwards. In this regard, the necessary permissions were applied for and obtained. The conversion was to take place progressively, which means that each year one higher class would stop receiving aid.


The judges further said that the facts set out in the petition have not been disputed by the respondents. In fact, no counter has been filed by any of the respondents.


The judges opined that the right to establish an educational institution is a right guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution and as such any restriction upon such right can be placed only by law enacted by legislature and not by a Circular or a Resolution issued under Article 162 of the Constitution of India.


White House says Snowden must not be allowed further travel

White House said it believed that there is a strong legal justification for Russia to expel Snowden and, given that he is wanted here on felony charges, that he should be returned to the US

The White House has said that Edward Snowden, who is wanted in the US on charges of felony, should not be allowed to travel further from Moscow. Snowden, the fugitive former operative of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is stranded at Moscow airport since past 10 days.


White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters "We’ve made very clear that he (Snowden) has been charged with felonies and as such, he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than travel that would result in him returning to the US."


Three Latin American countries have accepted the asylum request of Snowden, who fled the country after leaking the secretive American internet and phone surveillance programme, PRISM, which has outraged several countries including close US allies.


Snowden first flew to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, where he is stranded now as the US has withdrawn his passport in the absence of which he cannot travel further.


Carney said, “We have a very important relationship with Russia, and as the (US) President has said and others have said, we believe that this is not something that should negatively affect our relationship with Russia; it is something that we are pursuing through the normal channels here, diplomatic and law enforcement channels.”


Is filing of PIL by IAS or IPS officers against service rules?

Although, the Service Rules, framed in the 1950s and 60s, do not stop or prohibit any IAS or IPS officer from moving to the Court for filing a PIL on service related matters, some editors  seem to think otherwise

Recently, I saw an Article in the Sunday Guardian. The article titled “Akhilesh loses ground in UP, Mulayam loses hope” says- “A certain level of anarchy has been unleashed in the functioning of the party.” 


Among other things, it also refers to me saying- “Officers in the UP government are also kicking off discipline. A senior Personal Communication Services (PCS) officer Hari Shankar Pandey filed a first information report (FIR) against three officers from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) for harassing him. A senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Amitabh Thakur files public interest litigations (PILs) with an alarming regularity, in complete disregard of service rules.”


Thus the article, in a way, charges me of filing PILs on a regular basis, “in complete disregard to service rules.”


The fact on the other hand is that to the best of my knowledge no service rule seems to stop a government servant, including the All India Services officers, from filing PILs. It does not even say that the government servant shall take permission from the concerned government before filing PILs. The All India Service officers are governed by the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, which has total 23 Rules in it. None of these Rules, to the best of my knowledge, stops or prohibits any officer from moving to the Court to file PILs or service related matters.


The only bar, if at all is as regards to vindication of acts and character of members of the Service as stated in Rule 17 of these Rules. It says-“No member of the Service shall, except with the previous sanction of the government have recourse to any court or to the press for the vindication of official act which has been the subject matter of adverse criticism or attack of a defamatory character.”


Thus, the Conduct Rules only prohibit going to Court for vindication of official acts.


Interestingly, here again, there is an exception which says-“ Explanation.—Nothing in this rule shall be deemed to prohibit a member of the Service from vindicating his private character or any act done by him in his private capacity provided that he shall submit a report to the government regarding such action.”


What it seems to mean is that the officers do not need even previous sanction to vindicate their private character or private act.


Yet, a responsible newspaper like the Sunday Guardian came on record to state that regular filing of PILs by an IPS officer is against Service Rules, which to me seems to be an incorrect statement.


Though someone might regard the matter as not being very serious, yet I have written to the newspaper stating these facts, requesting them to present my point of view as well if found correct. This is because I personally believe that any written or spoken word shall be given utmost regard and we shall be extremely careful, responsible and accountable for every word we say or write. To me it seems that the more we develop and adapt this attitude in our country, the more responsible we will become as a true citizen of India, who cares not only for himself but for others as well.


NOTE: Earlier this month, Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court directed the state counsel to seek instructions from the ministry of personnel and public grievances within 10 days regarding amendment in conduct rules for government servants. Mr Thakur filed the PIL for amendment in Conduct Rules and performance appraisal presently applicable to the government servants.


(Amitabh Thakur is an IPS officer from Uttar Pradesh. He is the founder of the National RTI Forum, a grassroots anti-corruption organization in India that advocates for government openness under the terms of the 2005 Right to Information Act. His filing of FIR against Facebook and others for use of abusive language against Mahatma Gandhi has been widely appreciated in India, following which the Facebook group was banned.)


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