SFFRC gets teeth to regulate functioning of Private Schools, determine fee structure

In a significant development, the Centre has empowered School Fee Fixation and Regulation Committee (SFFRC) to regulate functioning of Private Schools in J&K and “put a check on illegal profiteering” by them.

An official said the Centre has amended J&K School Education Act-2002 to empower the SFFC for regulating functioning of the schools and determining fee structure by them.

The amendments to the Act have been carried under “The Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir Re-Organization(Adaptation of State Laws) order- 2020”, the official said.

While the SFFC was constituted by an Act of legislation, after reorganization of J&K, the government amended the Act to add a clause for constitution of the Fee Fixation Committee for the Schools.

The official said the proposal was sent to government of India for approval, adding the government recently approved the amendments by virtue of which the SFFRC has been given the statutory powers.

As per the amendments, the government has added clause 20 (A) after section 20 of the Act to empower the Committee. “The government shall constitute a committee to be known as the committee for Fixation and Regulation of Fee of Private Schools for the purposes of regulating and determining the fee in private schools in the Union territory,” reads an order.

It says that the government will delegate any of the powers vested in the SFFRC to the chairperson of the committee, to the extent as may be prescribed.

“Orders passed by the Committee for fixation and regulation of fee of private schools shall be deemed to have been duly passed by a public servant and its violation or non-compliance shall amount to disobedience under the provisions of section 188 of Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860),” the order reads.

The government has also given statutory powers to the SFFRC to determine the fee to be charged by the private schools while taking into account inter alia the location, available infrastructure, expenditure on administration, aid, assistance and support in any form received by the school from the government or any other person or agency.

“The committee will issue a notification for fixing the maximum ceiling of the fee to be charged under various categories. The Private Schools shall not charge any fee from the students or guardians, except tuition fee, annual fee, transport fee and voluntary special purpose fee such as the picnic, tour and excursions,” the order reads.

The Committee has been empowered to penalize those Schools found violating the orders. “Any person or Private School which contravenes the directions of the Committee shall be liable to a fine of not less than Rs 50,000 for the first offence and Rs one lakh for every subsequent offence including recommendation for disaffiliation of such school by the Committee,” the order reads.

The SFFRC has been authorized to call the record of any School for scrutiny if it comes to the conclusion that the institution has violated or was not adhering to its directions.

“The Committee will exercise such powers and perform such functions as may be prescribed by the government to ensure that the Private Schools are not indulging in commercialisation of education and undue profiteering,” reads the order.

To further strengthen the functioning of the Committee, the government has been instructed to constitute such other sub-committees at divisional or district level with such powers and functions to effectively regulate the fee in Private Schools.

“The Committee shall have the same powers as are vested in a civil court, under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908(5 of 1908),” the order reads.