Delhi issues notice to schools on fees hike

Delhi’s directorate of education (DoE) Friday informed the Delhi High Court that notices have been sent to 25 private schools in the city over fee hike.

The notices come after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its report to the high court termed as ‘unreasonable’ the fee hike by 25 private schools, including Modern school and Delhi Public School (DPS), and indicted them for accounting irregularities.

A bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Sidhharth Mridul has fixed March 29 for hearing the plea that challenges the Delhi government’s decision to allow the schools to hike tuition and development fees.

Counsel Ashok Aggarwal, representing the Delhi Abhibhavak Mahasangh, sought criminal investigation by an agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into alleged irregularities pointed out by the CAG in the report.

Aggarwal said: ‘The CAG report reveals not only several accounting malpractices but commission of criminal offences. Some agency like the CBI be asked to investigate into it.’

‘The schools did not follow the accounting standards while preparing their final accounts. There was no prescribed accounting format,’ said the 64-page CAG report submitted to the bench Thursday.

The report for 2006-09 was filed on the court’s direction over a parents association’s petition that questioned the Delhi government’s sanction to the private schools to hike their tuition and development fees.

‘There was no evidence of scrutiny of annual accounts and other returns to ascertain that the receipts and expenditures of the schools were in consonance with the projected budget estimates of the schools and any fee hike was not unreasonable,’ read the CAG report.

The audit report was against the accounts of only 25 of the 1,211 private city schools.

The CAG said the schools, which earned profits, prepared accounts showing losses by transferring the surplus funds into the next financial year.

‘The total cumulative revenue surplus as on March 31, 2009, was Rs.93.79 crore and the average cumulative revenue surplus per school during 2004 to 2009 ranged from Rs.2.51 crore to Rs.4.42 crore.

‘Schools build up deficits when they overspend their budgets and carry forward the overspend to future years,’ the report said.

It suggested proper monitoring by the government of the accounts of the schools which were not only shying away from giving admission to poor children but also paying salaries to their staff and teachers on the lines of their counterparts in government schools.

The CAG also pointed out lapses of chartered accountants who audited the accounts of the schools.

‘Our scrutiny of audited accounts of the unaided private schools revealed that none of the auditors had qualified the audit reports in significant cases of non-compliance with the directions of the DoE and provisions of the DSE (Delhi School Education) rules by the schools.’

‘As this amounts to professional lapse, the matter may be taken up with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India for suitable deterrent action,’ the report said.

The schools had recently enhanced fees by 15 percent without assessing the actual requirement, it said, adding the parents were not apprised of the actual demand arising out of the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission.

They should have first considered their surplus money and then, if required, raised the fees, it said.

Babri Masjid case: Apex court issues notices to Advani, Thackeray

The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and 19 others on a petition by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) challenging their discharge in the Babri Masjid demolition conspiracy case.

An apex court bench of Justice V.S.Sirpurkar and Justice T.S.Thakur issued the notice after Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam pressed the investigating agency’s petition, finding fault with the Allahabad High Court verdict.

It took major efforts on the part of Subramaniam to persuade the court to issue notices, which it appeared reluctant to issue earlier. The court wanted to know as to why the investigating agency did not approach the courts where these cases were being tried.

The court said that issuance of notices would serve no purpose except delaying the trial in the cases currently going on in Lucknow and Rae Bareli courts. The court asked the solicitor general as to what prevented the investigating agency from filing a supplementary charge sheet adding the charge of criminal conspiracy.

As Subramanium told the court that these leaders were being tried for other charges at Rae Bareli court, the bench said ‘Then with what face you (investigating agency) are coming here?’

The apex court wanted the solicitor general to address the issue of what prevented the investigating agency from curing the defect that eventually led to the dropping of the charges of criminal conspiracy on a mere technality.

‘Why has Uttar Pradesh (government) not issued a notification to cure the defect pointed out by the high court? Ten years have passed. Why have you not done it?’ the court asked the solicitor general.

However, since the solicitor general said that the charges of criminal conspiracy were there in the FIR against these leaders, the court issued the notices.

Advani and 20 others were discharged by the high court on May 20, 2010 in a case in which they were accused of conspiracy to demolish the 16th century Babri Masjid by radical Hindu activists Dec 6, 1992, triggering widespread communal violence.

Besides Advani and Thackeray, other accused include senior BJP leaders Murli Manohar Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Hari Dalmiya, as well as Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Ritambrara, Mahant Avaidyanath and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh,

The CBI appeal said that the reasons recorded by the trial court discharging Advani and other were fallacious.

‘Both the trial court and the high court have analysed the evidence and decided that there were two categories of accused persons and logically 21 persons (Advani and others) belonged to the category of instigators and distinct from those who actually executed the act of demolition,’ the appeal noted.

‘An artificial distinction was made by the trial court attempting to assign a role in respect of each of the accused persons and to see which offences were made out,’ the appeal said, adding this ‘classification is entirely unjustified and is unattainable’ and contending that all the ‘offences (instigation and actual act of demolition), form part of the same transaction’.

Initially the CBI had filed composite charge-sheet against 49 people and had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that their trial took place by the same court.

However, the special court separated the 21 BJP, Shiv Sena and VHP leaders and had directed their trial in Rae Bareli whereas for the remaining 28, the trial was directed to take place in Lucknow.

Ayodhya: Judge issues dissenting note, favours conciliation

In a surprise move, one of the three judges of the Allahabad High Court’s special Ayodhya bench Monday issued a dissenting note on the order issued by his two co-judges and allowed postponement of the verdict on the long-pending Babri Masjid/Ramjanmabhoomi row.

Justice Dharma Veer Sharma also disagreed with his co-judges of the Lucknow bench of the court — Justice S.U. Khan and Justice Sudhir Aggarwal — on the question of exploring an out-of-court settlement on the issue and rooted for mediation or conciliation.

The bench is slated to give its verdict on the case Friday.

Justice Sharma was not in agreement with the ruling of his colleagues to impose a fine of Rs.50,000 on the parties who sought a postponement.

Justice Sharma, who had refrained from signing the Sep 17 order issued by the special bench turning down the plea for postponement of the final verdict slated for Sep 24, said parties involved in the case must be given the freedom to try and work out an amicable settlement even until Sep 23.

The judge also pointedly accused his co-judges of not consulting him before taking the decision to reject the application seeking deferment of the verdict and making an effort towards an amicable out-of-court settlement.

“I am sorry to say that I was not consulted by my brother judges before they passed their order; otherwise I would have expressed my views then itself,” Sharma has stated in his order.

“In its order dated July 27, the special bench had unanimously given top priority to efforts for trying to resolve the issue through mediation or conciliation even until a day before the proposed pronouncement of the final verdict on Sep 24.”

Justice Sharma has also taken strong exception to certain remarks by his co-judges in their order dated Sep 17 about “mischievous intentions” behind the plea for postponement and an out-of-court settlement.

“I do not see any mischievous intention behind the move,” he pointed out while stressing that the fine of Rs.50,000 slapped on the applicant by the bench was also not in consonance with law.

Supreme Court issues notice to Raja on 2G allocation

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to Communications and IT Minister A. Raja in connection with the 2G spectrum scam.

The apex court also slammed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for filing a case against unnamed officials, and said that the investigating agency should have named them.

The petitioner wants the apex court to monitor the CBI probe or set up a Special Investigation Team.

Earlier on September 9, upping the ante against the Centre over the appointment of the former Telecom Secretary, P.J. Thomas, as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), the Bharatiya Janata Party said it was done to “cover up” the huge financial scam in the allotment of 2G spectrum.

Terming the 2G spectrum allocation to private companies at “throwaway prices” a “maha-Bofors” scam, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said Thomas’s appointment was done to derail the entire investigation into the scam.

Javadekar said that in its note prepared on August 12, 2010, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) – then headed by Thomas – raised a query before the Law Ministry saying that spectrum allocation was a matter of policy, and that the CAG and the CVC had no role to play in the inquiry into it.

“And now the same person [Thomas], who earlier objected to the CVC probing the scam, is heading the organisation…and now no one is expecting a fair inquiry into the entire matter,” Javadekar said.

He said both the DoT and the Law Ministry favoured the note prepared against the role of the CVC and the CAG, which proved that the government purposely appointed Thomas for the cover-up.

“The Congress-led UPA government has undermined institutions like the CAG and CVC on account of the compulsions of coalition politics, the UPA government is under pressure to derail the investigation,” alleged Javadekar.

Pointing out that A. Raja had time and again, in his defence, claimed that he was working under the guidance of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Javadekar said: “He has made the Prime Minister a co-accused in the scam. The formulation of policy at the behest of Raja was consciously and deliberately framed to cause loss to the government and gain to private parties. But still Dr. Singh has been defending the Minister.”

Last month, the Telecom Department headed by Thomas had sought the legal advisor’s opinion on whether the CAG had the authority to challenge policy decisions taken by the government.

The ministry’s legal advisor said neither the CVC nor the CAG had the authority to question the government’s policy decisions

Court issues notice to defence secretary, IAF

The Delhi High Court Friday issued notices to the defence secretary and the Indian Air Force (IAF) over a plea seeking contempt proceedings against them for not granting permanent commission (PC) to nine serving women officers.

Justice G.S. Sistani issued show cause notices to Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and Air Marshal K.J. Mathews, air officer-in-charge (personnel), and sought their response by Dec 14 on a contempt petition filed by a group of nine serving IAF women officers.

Rekha Palli, appearing for the petitioners, said they were only granted extension in service but the IAF did not comply with the March 12 order of the court regarding granting PC to woman officers.

The counsel claimed that these officers have served the nation for 15 years and the high court while disposing their petitions in March had specifically directed that ‘the serving officers who wish to be considered for PC ought to be extended the benefit of grant of permanent commission’.

Short service commission officers can serve for a maximum of 14 years, while officers granted permanent commissions can serve upto the age of 60, depending on the rank they rise to.