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High Court Directs Action in Cases of Collection of Excess Admission Fees by Private Schools
17-Nov-2013

The High Court today (14 November 2013), in a landmark judgment, held that private schools receiving MPO but not complying with the government directives regarding payment of admission fees and donations within the fixed ceiling could be liable for contempt of court.

 

A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Madam Justice Naima Haider and Mr Justice  Zafar Ahmed made the Rule Absolute in Part today by directing the Government to ensure that the Private Schools across the country follow prescribed ceiling on such fees fixed by the Ministry of Education under নিম্মমাধ্যমিক/ মাধ্যমিক/মাধ্যমিক ও উচ্চ মাধ্যমিক পর্যায়ের বেসরকারি শিক্ষা প্রতিষ্ঠান সমূহ ভর্তির ক্ষেত্রে অনুসরনীয় নীতিমালা -২০১১ and also take stern action to prevent schools charging excessive admission fees across the country. Quoting the report submitted on behalf of the Government, the Court observed that the Ministry of Education had issued show cause notices to a few schools in Dhaka who were allegedly taking excessive payments beyond the ceiling. The Court noted that after issuance of the show cause notice, those schools stopped taking such payments from the guardian of students as admission fees and they also gave assurances that such amounts would be adjusted against other dues.  As those schools had eventually complied with the aforesaid guidelines, the Court would not direct further immediate action against them.

 

However, the Court issued a “Continuous Mandamus” order upon the authorities, directing the government to ensure that the aforesaid guidelines are being followed strictly by the private schools across the country and warning that non –compliance by any school would render them liable to being held in contempt of court.

 

The first petitioner, former Adviser to the Caretaker Government, and the Executive Director of the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) welcomed the judgment, commenting that “The right to education is a fundamental right of a citizen of Bangladesh and thus it is the duty of the State to ensure education to all citizens. This judgment will add a new dimension to the movement for education rights, and establishment of the rights of people who are deprived of education”


Earlier on 10th of January, 2102 a High Court Bench comprising of Mr. Justice AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik and Mr. Justice Jahangir Hossain Selim issued a Rule Nisi after hearing a writ petition jointly filed by the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST). The writ challenged the government’s failure to prevent the primary, secondary and higher secondary educational institutions (which receive MPO) from charging additional admission fees from guardians of students. The HC issued a Rule upon the education ministry, directorates and boards of education to explain in three weeks why their failure to investigate the imposition of excess school fees and charges from guardians in the form of donations, and its failure to prosecute and punish the schools and colleges doing so should not be declared unconstitutional and a violation of the access to education.

 

The Court asked the officials to explain why they should not be directed to adopt a time-bound action plan to monitor both government and non-government schools to ensure that they comply with the guidelines regarding the fee ceiling and refund the excess fees extracted from guardians.

  

The petition was filed following a spate of news reports about a number of schools across the country charging admission fees ranging from Tk 8,000 to Tk 32,000 or even higher unlawfully.

According to an Education Ministry circular, admission fees for such schools had been fixed at Tk 5,000 to Tk.8000 for the Dhaka Metropolitan area, Tk 3,000 for other metropolitan areas, Tk 2,000 for district headquarters, Tk 1,000 for upazila headquarters and Tk 500 for rural areas according to the petition.

  

Barrister Ashraful Hadi appearing for the petitioners stated: “this is a landmark judgment that will facilitate proper access to education as part of fundamental rights of every citizen. It was a positive step for the Ministry of Education in issuing those Circulars concerned and the Government must be responsible to ensure that these progressive measures are implemented for greater public benefit.” For BLAST, Barrister Sara Hossain stated: “This judgment is an important step towards recognizing the right to access to education as a fundamental right .


Barrister Sara Hossain, Barrister Ashraful Hadi, and Barrister Md. Akmal Hossain appeared for the petitioners, while Deputy Attorney General Adv. Mukhlesur Rahman represented the state.