At, High Court of Karnataka
By, THE HONOURABLE MRS. JUSTICE S. SUJATHA
For the Petitioner: M.P. Srikanth, M.S. Parthasarathi, Advocates. For the Respondent: Pramodhini Kishan, AGA.
1. The petitioners are aggrieved by the action of the respondents in not refunding the fees for the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19 in respect of the students admitted under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 ('RTE Act' for short) and classifying the petitioners - Institution as coming under urban area and allotting the students to the institution.
2. The petitioner No.1 claiming to be a trust is running petitioner No.2 - Institution. It is contended that petitioner No.2 is a registered and recognized Unaided Private Educational Institution located in a rural area and has been paying the taxes to Srirampura Grama Panchayath, which comes under Mysore Taluk located within the jurisdictional limits of the said Grama Panchayath.
3. It is submitted that the institution addressed letters to the respondent - Authorities with a request to provide user - ID and password in order to log into the software of RTE fees and to classify the petitioner No.2 - Institution in the rural area. It is the grievance of the petitioners that the said requests/representations have not yielded any positive results.
4. Learned counsel Sri. Srikanth M.P. appearing for the petitioners would submit that without refunding the fees to the students admitted under RTE quota for the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19, the respondents have allotted the seats to the children under RTE quota classifying the petitioner - Institution as coming under urban area for the academic year 2019-20. Learned counsel invited the attention of this Court to the tax paid receipt and the copy of the classification of the institution made by the Education Department for the purpose of RTE quota relating to the academic year 2017-18 (Annexure - Q) as well as the letter of the Mysuru Mahanagara Palike, Mysuru, dated 21.05.2019 to submit that the petitioner No.2 - Institution comes under Ayyajayyanahundi, Dattagalli, Srirampura Grama Panchayath, a rural area. It is submitted that a government school is situated within one kilometer from the petitioner No.2 - Institution, ignoring the same, students residing at different wards of the rural area are allotted to the petitioners - Institution. Learned counsel further argued that the communication of the respondents treating the school coming under the rural area for the purpose of RTE Act and for the administrative purposes coming under Mysuru Taluk (rural area) evinces inasmuch as the petitioners - school coming under the rural area. The respondent - Authorities are harassing the petitioners unnecessarily on hyper-technicalities without processing the reimbursement/refund claimed.
5. Learned Additional Government Advocate appearing for the respondents justifying the action of the respondents submits that the petitioner No.2 - Institution comes under Dattagalli, Ward No.46 in terms of Sl.No.46 of the Government Notification dated 19.06.2018 duly gazetted. Similarly, mapping made by the Education Department for allotment of seats under RTE quota supports the same. It was argued that the Government Order bearing No.ED-51/PGC/2016(P) dated 08.02.2016 provides for 'neighborhood' which contemplates that in urban area, neighborhood shall be the area of ward notified for the purpose of governance of the local Authority. The mapping of the schools is done based on the neighborhood. There is no government school in Ward No.46. RTE students are allotted to the schools which comes under the purview of such neighborhood where the Government and aided schools are not established as per the amended rules of 2018. Reliance was placed on the proviso to rule 4(7) which reads thus :-
"provided that no un-aided school falling under sub-clause (iv) of clause (n) of Section 2 shall be identified for the purpose of admission of disadvantaged group or weaker section where there are Government Schools and aided schools are available within the neighborhood".
6. Learned counsel argued that in view of the same, the petitioners - Institution comes under the purview of RTE Act and the students are allotted accordingly. It was further submitted that the petitioners - Institution for the academic years 2016-17 and 2017-18 have obtained the reimbursement of fees for RTE students, whereas it is under process for the academic year 2018-19. On the production of the relevant material, the same will be disbursed. Learned AGA has relied upon an endorsement issued by the Mysuru Mahanagarapalike dated 11.04.2019 to substantiate that Dattagalli III Stage, Kanakadasanagar, 'J' Block, 13th Main Road, Mysuru, where the petitioner No.2 - Institution is located comes under Ward No.46 of Mysuru Mahanagarapalike.
7. I have carefully considered the rival submissions of the learned counsel appearing for the parties and perused the material on record.
8. The fulcrum of dispute revolves around the location of the petitioners - Institution. Learned counsel appearing for both the parties have relied upon the letter issued by the Mysuru Mahanagarapalike to substantiate their arguments. The letter dated 11.04.2019 issued by the Zonal Commissioner, Zonal Office - III, Mysuru Mahanagarapalike indicates that the address of the petitioners - Institution comes under Ward No.46 of Mysuru Mahanagarapalike. Whereas, the letter dated 21.05.2019 of the same Office shows that the petitioners - Institution situated at Sy.No.9/1, Ayyajayyanahundi do not come under the jurisdiction of the Mysuru Mahanagarapalike. The said inconsistent certificates issued by the same office do not repose any confidence. The Gazette Notification and the mapping depicts that Dattagalli comes under Ward No.46. This factual aspect inasmuch as the Institution coming under the urban area Ward No.46 or rural area requires to be decided by the respondent - Authorities considering the relevant material evidence. Respondent - Authorities have allotted the seats to the students under RTE quota relating to the academic year 2019-20 to the petitioners - Institution as coming under urban area Ward No.46 of Mysore Mahanagara Palike. In the first round, out of the 8 students for LKG, 5 students were admitted by the petitioners - Institution subject to the result of these writ petitions, whereas 2 seats in 1st standard and 3 students in LKG were denied admission for the reason that the parents of those students were residing in different wards and the same was communicated to the BEO - respondent No. 5 vide letter dated 16.05.2019. This Court by an interim order dated 21.05.2019 directed the respondents not to take any precipitative action pursuant to the notice dated 16.05.2019 issued by the BEO - respondent No.5 to initiate action for non-compliance of the directions issued for the admission of the students under the RTE Act.
9. In view of the factual dispute relating to the location of the petitioners - Institution whether comes under the urban area or rural area the same has to be addressed by the authorities concerned. To balance the equities and to safeguard the interest of the children who are already admitted by the Institution, this Court deems it appropriate to direct the respondents not to take any precipitative action against the petitioners - Institution until a decision is taken by the respondents in this regard. Further, the admission of the five students for LKG by the petitioners - Institution during the academic year 2019-20 shall not be disturbed.
10. It is needless to observe that the authorities are obligated to reimburse/refund the fees relating to the students admitted by the petitioners - Institution under the RTE quota. It is evident that the petitioners - Institution was made to run from pillar to post for seeking refund of the said fees relating to the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19. It is during the pendency of the present proceedings i.e., on 13.05.2019, the respondents have refunded the fees relating to the academic year 2017-18 and still processing the s
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ame for academic year 2018-19. 11. In the circumstances, this Court deems it appropriate to direct the respondent Nos.4 and 5 to consider the representations of the petitioners vide Annexures - F and G for refund of fees relating to the academic year 2018-19 as well as classifying the institution in a rural area and take a decision in the matter in accordance with law in an expedite manner, in any event, not later than two weeks from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the order and the seats shall be allotted under the RTE Act accordingly without disturbing the admission of five students for LKG as aforesaid. All the rights and contentions of the parties are left open. With the aforesaid observations and directions, writ petitions stand disposed of. In view of disposal of the writ petitions, pending I.As. also stand disposed of.