At least 155 private schools, with enrollment of more than one lakh students, are grappling to keep their registrations intact as the Jammu & Kashmir administration’s new rules directed the Revenue Department to identity those schools built on the land other than private property in the Union Territory (UT) for de-registration by the Education Department.
Hearing the petitions filed by such private schools, judge Moksha Khajuria Kazmi said, “The petitioners have prima facie made out a case for ad-interim relief at this stage. In the meantime, subject to objections to be filed by the respondents and till the next date of hearing, status quo, as on date, shall be maintained.” The case has been listed for July 18, 2022.
The court Order has provided a relief at a time when the Chief Education Officers (CEOs) in the Valley’s 10 districts issued orders for “closing the schools operating on State or kahcharai land”. “The students in such institutions shall be accommodated in nearby government schools, subject to the consent of their parents,” the order, to be implemented within 15 days, said.
Hundreds of private schools in Kashmir function from different titles of land such as Shamilat-e-Deh land, Kahcharie land, State land, Ahle Islam land and Masjid land for many decades now. The Lieutenant Governor’s administration, however, on April 15, 2022, added two sub-rules to the already existing Jammu and Kashmir School Education Rules, 2010, which lays down the procedure for registration of private Schools.
The Sub Rule (2)(A) and Sub Rule (2)(B) asked the schools to obtain ‘No Objection Certificate’ regarding the land use and lease period by the Revenue Department. However, the management of the schools, contesting the government move in the court, told the High Court that there was confusion among the Revenue officers between title to the land and ‘use of the land’ without possessing the title.
“(Such) Schools have been established many years back on the State land and the government, from time to time, for the last several years has accepted the establishment of such schools by granting them ‘registration’ and ‘recognition’ and by sanctioning electricity and water connections,” the school heads said.
They argued before the court that it was within the knowledge of the government that the schools had been established by the local members of the community for the benefit of the children on these lands.
“At no stage, the government objected to the setting up of these schools which have been in operation for the last several years. All the (school) members are in settled possession. They are not trespassers,” they said.
The school management also put forth that the schools, which exist on Kahcharie land, have been established with the authority and permission of the local inhabitants. “In some cases, within the knowledge of the Panchayat. A small portion of the grazing land has been used for setting up of the schools for the benefit of the school going children and for the benefit of the local community,” they said.
They said the move has put the entire educational career of hundreds of students, who are studying in these schools, “at stake”. “Serious controversy has arisen as regards the said amendments and the consequent notification and circulars issued…have the effect of taking over the management of the school, which has been established on the land of Makbooza Ahle-Islam. It has serious consequences and may adversely affect,” senior advocate Zaffar Shah said.
The fresh move follows the recent measure to de-recognise scores of schools associated with the Falah-e-Aam Trust, a body affiliated to the banned Jamaat-e-Islami. At least 1,100 students have been affected by the move.