Bombay HC stays school education minister’s order on five junior colleges

The Bombay high court on Monday restrained Maharashtra school education department from granting final permission to five junior colleges run by Rao Educational Trust in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai.

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 junior colleges.

Gaikad had also directed the department officials to take further steps to grant index number to the trust – to enable about 672 class XII students to fill forms for HSC examination. Accordingly, a provisional index number was granted for five junior colleges run by the trust at Andheri, Borivli, Sion, Kharghar in Navi Mumbai and Thane.

Jaiswal had taken strong objection to the order and filed the interim application seeking stay on the same. 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 government 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 meters plots either on ownership or leasehold basis and 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 permissions for self-financed schools without strictly adhering to the provisions of the 2012 enactment.

January 28 order was passed by HC after noticing that 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, untill such scrutiny and verification was undertaken.

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