Parents of students in Leo Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Anna Nagar, accused the school of charging over the limit

The Madras High Court on Friday came to the rescue of parents who protested the high-handedness of a city school that collected excess fees.

It upheld a March 2012 order of the private schools fee determination committee directing education authorities to initiate action against an unaided private school so that it would refund the excess fee collected from students.

Dismissing a writ petition by the school, a division bench comprising Justices R. Banumathi and K.K. Sasidharan said sufficient opportunity was given to the institution.

The Judges said they were of the view that the direction to refund excess fee was based upon complaints from parents which was strengthened by the report of the joint director and the inspector of matriculation schools. There was no violation of the principles of natural justice warranting interference.

The petitioner, Leo Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Anna Nagar Western Extension, has a strength of 2,300 students. Based on an enquiry by the inspector of matriculation schools, a report was submitted to the committee.

On notice, the school appeared before the committee and submitted an explanation. Based on the enquiry and also the inspector’s report, the committee passed the impugned order on March 27, last year, holding that the school had collected excess fee. It directed the authorities to take action against the school so excess fee would be refunded.

Assailing the order, the school mainly contended that only the committee could enquire whether there was any excess fee collected. The panel was not justified in delegating the power to the inspector of matriculation schools. Passing an order based on the report was vitiated.

Refuting the contentions, additional government pleader P. Sanjay Gandhi said the enquiry report was submitted to the committee in accordance with Rule 7 (1) of the Tamil Nadu Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act.

The panel called for an enquiry and based on it, the committee had concluded that the school collected excess fee. Hence, it passed an order to refund the extra fee collected.

The Bench said the inspector’s report contained startling revelations about the irregularities committed by the school in fee collection over and above the fee prescribed by the statutory committee.

Several complaints were received from parents that the school was not allowing students to write examination. Having regard to the urgency involved, the school was not right in contending that the panel should have convened quorum of all members to hear the matter.

Such an argument was a far-fetched one. The court said that such an approach would defeat the objective of the Act. The inspector of matriculation schools had every right to inspect schools if any complaint was received from public/parents.