Report of the Inquiry Team* of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on rustication of seven students of Gandhidham, Kutch district, from Dayanand Arya Vedic (DAV) Public School:
On receiving complaint of rustication of seven students of the DAV Public School, Gandhidham, and indecent behaviour against students and their guardians, a PUCL team visited the city on May 10. A meeting was held with the guardians and with the DySP.
The guardians who remained present were Vinodbhai Khubchandani, Dharmendrabhai Makhijani, Ashwinbhai Maheshwari, Ashwinbhai Manavani, and Jayantbhai Chavada. The students were rusticated were Makhijani Harshita Dharmendrabhai (class XI), Makhijani Vishakha Dharmendrabhai (class V), Jetwanee Nayana Lalitbhai (class VI), Jetwanee Piyush Lalitbhai (class IV), Khubchandani Ayush (class VI), Maheshwari Sanjana Ashwinbhai (class VI), and Maheshwari Priya Ashwinbhai (class IV). Reason cited was similar: non-payment of fees.
The only person who did not file FIR was the father of Makhijani Harshita and Vishakha. Upon talking to him, he said that he had received threats that his daughters would not be allowed admission in any other school. The father of Maheshwari Sanjana and Priya made an application to the district collector. The district collector sought filing of FIR with the SP Gandhidham, Bhavanaben, but till now FIR has not been filed. Since the SP was not present, a meeting was arranged with DySP (SC/ST Cell). Discussions were held with him about the incident. It was represented that, although Sanjana and Priya were Dalits, and even the collector has directed to file an FIR a month ago, nothing has been done.
Root Cause of the Issue
Upon inquiry it was gathered that the Gandhidham-based DAV Public School was started in the year 2010. With its commencement it became popular as a “CBSE-recognized” or “accredited” school, wrongfully misusing a well-known abbreviation. Guardians were cheated by charging fees in accordance with norms of CBSE for admitting children.
An application was made to the Director of Primary Education. An inquiry was conducted by the District Child Defence Unit, and confirmation was made about inadequate facilities. In the course of the inquiry it transpired that this school was not recognized by the CBSE. In this context, guardians lodged a complaint with the District Education Officer and a representation was made for getting refund of illegally collected fees as if in accordance with CBSE norms. This way, the school was illegally run from the year 2010 to 2015.
In the face of demand and pressure from people, the school made application for recognition under the CBSE and the school got such recognition in December 2015. Since the date from which the guardians started making representation to make available primary facilities in the school, threats were issued that their children would be dropped out of the school. Mental torture was inflicted upon students. No attention was paid to them, children were pressured to pay up fees, and those who did not were refused permission to take part in cultural events and programmes being organised in the school.
On March 15, 2016, under the pretext of convening parents’ meeting, guardians assembled, and during that time, the staff and the management of the school started abusing the complainant and their wards by uttering obscene and offensive language, and guardians were attacked.
Seven guardians protested against the collection of illegally exorbitant fees, but when they went to pay fees on March 22, 2016, the school authorities refused to accept the fees and sent out school leaving certificates to students’ homes. Students were rusticated under the pretext that fees had not been paid and they were given threats that they would not be given admission in any other school. Out of these seven students, five were girls and two were boys. Of the seven, two girls belonged to the Dalit community.
In the course of personal meeting with the guardians of these seven students, it became known that their children were rusticated from the school without giving any show cause notice. One parent has not lodged police complaint, whereas five guardians had made an application of police complaint, yet the police has not registered FIR. In spite of repeated representations, their complaints were not accepted.
In January 2017, a representation was made to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and on February 7, 2017 NHRC issued notice to the education department. As a part of the notice, action was initiated on December 13, 2017 to withdraw the school’s recognition, but a stay from the High Court was secured by the DAV School to avoid cancellation of recognition.
Earlier, as the police complaint of Lalitbhai could not be registered, Vinodbhai had made an affidavit on January 25, 2017, and his complaint was registered. But certain articles/sections were omitted by the police, which made him file a petition with the Gujarat High Court on April 18, 2017. As a result, the High Court directed that certain supplementary clauses may be added, seeking THE constitution of SIT to inquire into the entire matter.
An officer equivalent to the post of Dy SP was appointed. Details of the entire incident were placed before him and FIR was lodged, and the school authorities were asked to implement the orders of the High Court. In the meantime, the school management went to the High Court and manoeuvred to secure a stay against the decision of debarring the school’s recognition. This was because of misunderstanding between Vinodbhai and his advocate, one reason he could not become party to the petition.
No inquiry has been conducted by the SIT, and if at all any inquiry has been held, the concerned parents’ statements have not been taken on record.
In this entire case matter, because of pressure exerted by the ruling party, no action has been initiated against the school authorities, and pressure has been mounted upon the complainants to withdraw their complaints.
Suggestions of guardians
- Stay against debarring recognition of the school may be lifted with immediate effect in the interest of justice
- Recognition of CBSE should not be renewed
- Actions to be taken to make all the guardians ‘a party’ to the case
- Guardians are seeking assistance of PUCL to go ahead in this entire process in the interest of justice
The PUCL Inquiry Team demands:
- A special inquiry team may be constituted to inquire into the entire scam of the school, right from its inception, which may prepare and submit a report in a time bound manner, on the doctrine of natural justice
- Criminal steps be initiated against every guilty officer involved in this scam
- Judicial inquiry may be ordered in the matter of attack/assault made on parents within the school premises or the school compound
- The illegal and wrongfully collected fee in contravention or violation of the rules may be refunded to the guardians
Taking into account all the details, it becomes evident that in areas like Gandhidham and Kutch, where students do not have any other option for proceeding their studies, privately-run schools for their own selfishness are tempting guardians, and thus tampering with children’s education and their future.
*Inquiry conducted by: Meenakshben Joshi, organizing secretary, PUCL, Gujarat; Smitaben Pandya, advocate; Sheetal Pradeep, Bachpan Bachaavo Aandolan. Report prepared by Gautam Thaker, general secretary, PUCL, Gujarat