Mumbai: Six years in, parent wins fight against fee farce by Vidyavihar school

Six years after Ghatkopar businessman's complaint, human rights commission asks police to register FIR against a Vidyavihar school, and penalises lax Mantralaya babu

Vijay Pakhare waited six years for a favourable order. Pics/Rajesh Gupta
Vijay Pakhare waited six years for a favourable order. Pics/Rajesh Gupta

Even before the rage against unregulated fee hikes caught the public imagination, Vijay Pakhare had filed a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission against "irrelevant fees" being slapped by Fatima High School in Vidyavihar. Now, after a six-year-long battle, not only has the commission ordered filing of an FIR against the school, but has also directed the additional chief secretary of the home department to pay Pakhare a compensation of Rs 50,000 within six weeks.

Pakhare recalls that in 2011, apart from the school fees for his daughter, now in Std VIII, he had been asked to pay an additional smart class fees under the umbrella of education fees (Rs 840) and teacher arrears (Rs 345), totalling Rs 1,185. Pakhare, however, felt these charges were irrelevant and decided to object by filing a complaint against the trustees of the school with the police under the Capitation Fee Act, but was turned away and told they couldn't do much to take it ahead. He then approached the State Human Rights Commission.

Pakhare told mid-day, "After filing the complaint, it was not entertained for five years, as there was no judge. After a long wait, now the commission has ruled in our favour and asked the police to register an FIR and conduct an investigation."

Also read: Panvel school gets warning for segregating fee defaulters

After being told to pay additional fees in 2011.
After being told to pay additional fees in 2011.

Order states
In his order, Coram MA Sayeed of the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, observed, "The facts of the case reflect a sorry state of affairs on the part of DCP 7 of the police force, clearly establishing an apathy and reluctance to follow the due process of law by inventing own procedure. Complainant Pakhare is the aggrieved father, who has been victimised by an educational institute — Fatima High School — of charging exorbitant capitation fee in total disregard to the law and the rules." He ordered "the DCP Zone 7, Ghatkopar division, to register the FIR and conduct an investigation."

Also read: Mira Road school wishes 'good luck' to kid of parents who protested

The commission also asked the additional chief secretary to pay the Rs 50,000 compensation in six weeks.

Police says
Senior Inspector Vankat Patil of Ghatkopar police station said, "On the basis of the order by the commission, we have filed an FIR against four officials of the school under Sections 7a and 7a (a) of the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Capitation of Fee) Act of 1987. We will investigate the matter and send the report to the education department and, under its guidelines, we will take further action."

The other side
Principal Philip Gonsalves, said, "We do not agree with any of the allegations put up by the complainant. However, we will cooperate with the investigation."

Also read - Thane: 6-year-old isolated in school library, kept out of class for 2 days straight

Meanwhile, repeated attempts to contact the additional chief secretary, home, yielded no response.

Pitfalls of the Capitation Fee Act
The Capitation Fee Act was enforced in 1987, but there are no concrete regulations that enable its implementation. Until now, around 15 cases have been filed under it, but only one arrest was made in 2002, in a complaint against MP Shah School in Vile Parle. Activists claim that the Act is toothless, as whenever parents approach the police to file a complaint, they simply forward it to the education department for its recommendation. In most cases, an inconclusive report leads to inaction.

Rs 50k The amount that the Addl CS, Home, has been asked to pay as compensation in 6 weeks
Rs 1,185 The additional fee that Pakhare had been asked to pay for his daughter

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