The Bombay high court (HC) on Monday restrained the state school education department from granting final permission to five junior colleges, run by Rao Educational Trust, without the leave of the court. The division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni also restrained the department from acting on provisional index number granted to the trust by Maharashtra State Board for Secondary and Higher Secondary Education.
The order came on an interim application filed by Manju Jaiswal, a city resident and trustee of an educational trust, seeking stay to an order passed by school education minister Varsha Gaikwad on December 18, 2020, granting Rao Educational Trust time till academic year 2021-2022 to comply with the infrastructural requirements of the junior colleges.
Gaikwad had also directed the department officials to take further steps to grant index number to the trust, to enable about 672 Class 12 students to fill forms for the board examination. Accordingly, a provisional index number was granted for five junior colleges run by the trust at Andheri, Borivli, Sion, Kharghar and Thane.
Jaiswal had taken strong objection to the order and filed the interim application seeking stay on it. Her counsel, senior advocate Anil Sakhare, pointed out that the education minister had no authority under the Maharashtra Self Finance Schools (Establishment and Regulation) Act, 2012, to pass such an order.
Sakhare also pointed out that the minister’s order was completely contrary to earlier orders passed by HC on Jaiswal’s petition, especially the order of January 28, 2020, by which HC has restrained the government from considering any application, either to start a new school or for permission for additional divisions or classes.
In November 2020, HC modified the 28 January order and allowed the government to consider 410 applications of existing schools either for additional divisions in junior colleges or for starting new junior colleges, after the state assured that the applications will be considered strictly in accordance with the the Maharashtra Self Finance School (Establishment and Regulation) Rules, 2020.
In her petition, Jaiswal has complained about permissions granted to several coaching classes for setting up junior colleges on the ground that those institutions did not fulfil legal requirements like 500-square-metre plots either on ownership or leasehold basis and the infrastructure mentioned in the 2012 enactment.
She has sought cancellation of the permissions granted to several coaching classes to start junior colleges and also a direction for restraining the government from granting any new permission for self-financed schools, without strictly adhering to the provisions of the 2012 enactment.
The January 28 order was passed by HC after noticing that the government machinery was not fully functional to implement the 2012 Act, and important authorities under the enactment were not notified and appointed.
In this backdrop, HC had restrained state government from considering any pending or new applications for starting new schools under the 2012 Act.
The bench had also restrained the government from renewing existing approvals or permissions unless a full-fledged inspection and scrutiny was undertaken by the state or field-level authorities – as may be notified by the rules – and directed to keep on hold all applications seeking renewal of existing permissions, until such scrutiny and verification was undertaken.
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