School charges property tax from students

An east Delhi school has hiked the fee right in the middle of the session, because they have to pay property tax to MCD. Disgruntled Parents have now taken the matter to High Court

As if inflation was not enough bad news, parents of school-going children will now have to put up with even more expenses, in the name of taxes. What is more, many schools raise the fee right in the middle of the session so that parents are left with no option but to shell out the bucks.

Money matters: St. Lawrence Convent School at Geeta Colony in New
Delhi. PIC/Imtiyaz Khan

In one such instance, an east Delhi school recently revised its fee structure in the middle of the session and asked parents to pay "property tax" as part of the fee. While parents have been left perplexed and angry, the school in explanation claims they have to increase the fee as they are paying hefty amounts, nearly Rs 40 lakh to civic body Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) as property tax.

The number game
The school in question, St Lawrence Senior Secondary, located in Geeta Colony, has hiked under fancy heads such as property tax, SMS charges (for sending SMS alerts to parents regarding important events), and for technical devices used in Science and Math laboratories.

The already exorbitant fee, Rs 9,000 for three months, has been hiked by almost 40 per cent. It has been divided as follows �property tax, Rs 429 (quarterly), SMS charges, Rs 170 (annual), and technical instruments, Rs 400 (monthly).  Meanwhile, parents already have to pay Rs 1,050 as development and maintenance charges and Rs 450 as computer charges. Anxious parents have now filed a petition in the High Court (HC), demanding regulation of the fee by private and public schools.

Violation of RTE Act?
Sanjay Kapoor, a member of the St Lawrence School Parents Welfare Association, told Mid-Day, "This is complete fraud in the name of facilities. For my children, who study in Classes VII and III here, I have to pay an exorbitant amount of fee. It is just not fair to parents and is also a huge violation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. Why should we pay this entire amount, which has been imposed upon us unnecessarily?" Also, the parents' body alleged that when they tried to contact the principal regarding the matter, they were told to wait outside the school premises. After waiting for a long time, they were told that the principal was not available to see them, and if they could not afford to pay the fee, they must take their children to government schools.

What the Law says?
HC lawyer and president of All India Parents Association, Ashok Aggarwal, said the trust that established the school is not exempted by the MCD from paying property tax. By no means, however, the school can levy these charges from the students. The students can only be charged for the revenue expenditure, and not capital investment. Aggarwal said he has now taken the matter to the court. "The school in question has raised the fee for irrelevant charges such as the property tax. We have asked the court to take strict action against the school authorities and keep a track of other such institutions."

The other side
School authorities were not available for the comment, even after repeated attempts. Education officer (east) Dinesh Kumar, too, said. "I cannot talk about the matter." Deputy Director (Education) Neelam Verma could also not comment on the issue due to a "mouth injury".

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