Limited powers to parents in Delhi’s Edu Bills: Critics

NEW DELHI: On Friday,amid much drama, education minister Manish Sisodia tabled two bills that he evidently believes will alter the education scene in Delhi. Incidentally, the critics of the bills believe that too but for entirely different reasons. While intended to bring relief to parents and children, some who have reviewed the bills say they have “no role for parents” in them.

Lawyer and education activists Khagesh Jha “welcomes” the provisions on capitation fee and screening in nursery admissions but feels the The Delhi School Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015 is shoddily drafted and lifts safeguards on admissions into other classes. While the bill prohibits “screening” and “capitation fee” at entry-level, it says the “head of school may subject the child to any screening procedure for admission in class beyond elementary level.” This being placed in the act, argues Jha, effectively nullifies Rule 145 of the Delhi School Education Act and Rules 1973 that addressed admissions till Class 12 and contained provisions for admission tests. “Now schools can admit on the basis of your shirt-colour. There are schools that add entire sections after elementary,” says Jha. He also adds the definition of “entry-level” as “pre-primary” or “pre-school” may lead to schools adding classes at age two. “That is permissible by law.”

In Jha’s interpretation, the bills “don’t have any role for parents or children.” The proposed insertion, Section 27A (2), says offences shall be “non-cognizable and bailable and no court shall take cognizance of any offence under this act except on the complaint of an officer not below the rank of such officer as the government may authorise in this behalf.” Then, section 16(A)(3), says “Director (education) shall be the competent authority to impose the fine mentioned in section 16(A) (on screening and capitation fees).” “What this amounts to,” explains Jha, “is the directorate will complain, inquire and judge all cases related to capitation fee and screening.” The authority to impose fines was, till now, with the High Court by default. Jha further adds that no violation on the screening and donation front will lead to imprisonment as section 16(A) which addresses these has been excluded from the purview of section 27(A) on “offence and penalties.”

The complaints mechanism proposed in the Delhi School (Verification of Accounts and Refund of Excess Fee) Bill, 2015, is problematic too. Lawyer Ashok Agarwal had earlier described the proposed mechanism as “a trade-union negotiating and industrial dispute.” Section 7(1) of the bill says, “Any complaint relating to utilization of school fund or non refund of excess fee in terms of the order issued under sub-section (2) of section 6, may be made by parents of at least twenty students or one fifth of the total strength of students in such school, whichever is less, before the committee in such manner as may be prescribed.” “It is hard to fine one parent willing to challenge a school’s authority,” said Agarwal.