Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Patna High Court orders stopping of grant-in-aid to 609 madarsas

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The Patna High Court has passed directions after noting that no action was taken against the erring officers/officials, who without verifying the facts allowed public money to be released/disbursed by way of a grant at least to 88 educational institutions (madarsas) remains unexplained. Pending the inquiry, the Court blocked release of funds to 609 madarsas in the state.

The division bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Partha Sarthy heard a petition alleging that on the basis of a forged communication dated 16.12.2013, certain educational institutions falling within the ambit and scope of Section 2(c) of the Bihar State Madarsa Education Board Act, 1981  were granted financial aid in terms of the Government Resolution No. 1090 dated 29.11.1980.

A fact finding enquiry was initiated by the Government by constituting a committee of three members vide order dated 01.07.2020 of the High Court ,  the counter affidavit dated 28.08.2020 filed by Special Director, Secondary Education, Education Department, Government of Bihar, which, in turn, submitted its report dated 17.07.2020 finding the letter, leading to the grant of aid by the Government, to be forged, and, as such, further recommending withdrawal of the same qua 88 educational institutions confined only in one district i.e. Sitamarhi of Bihar, as also registering an F.I.R. in connection therewith.  

Subsequent orders passed by the High Court, as is also evident from the affidavit dated 16.12.2022 filed by Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, Government of Bihar, has resulted into the constitution of yet another three-member committee by the Government for verifying the factual status of all such 609 educational institutions situated in other districts of Bihar, who are in receipt of grants-in-aid in terms of and under the  resolutions passed by the State. Also the statutory provisions i.e. the Madarsa Act, stands fully complied with or not is required to be ascertained and examined.

The Court noted that  vide communication dated 17.09.2021,  the Senior Deputy Collector nominated by the District Magistrates of each one of the districts i.e. Khagaria, Banka, Begusarai, Katihar, Madhubani, Muzaffarpur, Kishanganj, Sheohar, Siwan, Bhagalpur, West Champaran, Patna, Purnea, East Champaran, Rohtas, Sheikhpura, Samastipur, Saharsa, Sitamarhi, Saran, Supaul, Darbhanga, Vaishali, Araria, Aurangabad, Gaya and Gopalganj is heading the committee with the District Education Officer and Block Education Officer of each one of the respective districts as its members.   

“Well, this was way back in September, 2021. Surprisingly, the Government, be it for whatever reason, is shying away from placing on record the result of inquiry conducted by these committees,” the Bench said.

In defence, it is stated that the Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, Government of Bihar has sent reminders to the District Magistrate(s), but then this is no explanation for not getting the inquiry completed within a time-bound period, more so when the Government itself, way back in 2020 cancelled the grant in relation to at least 88 educational institutions and that too in district Sitamarhi alone, held the Court.

It has also come on record that an FIR. stands registered. Well, what is the outcome of such action is also not made known to the High Court.

Under these circumstances, the High Court issued following directions: 
“(a) The Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, Government of Bihar shall forthwith convene a meeting of all the Chairmen of the Three Member Committees constituted vide communication dated 17.09.2021, with a further direction to ensure completion of enquiry on expeditious basis and not later than four weeks from today; 
(b) Till such time individual enquiry with respect to entitlement and compliance of statutory provisions of law and Government resolutions is not concluded, the amount by way of grants-in-aid shall not be released in favour of 609 educational institutions; 
(c) The Director General of Police, Bihar shall ensure that investigation in relation to the FIR already registered is expedited and the latest status report is placed on record through his personal affidavit. This he shall positively do within next two weeks; 
(d) We clarify that the pendency of the present petition shall not come in the way of the authorities taking appropriate action in accordance with law, be it of cancelling the registration of the educational institutions; stopping the grant and/or initiating disciplinary proceedings against erring officer(s) and official(s); 
(e) Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, Government of Bihar shall ensure that no child suffers only as a result of closure of such educational institution(s), be it on account of non-release of grants-in-aid or non-compliance of the statutory provisions. Every child upto a particular age has a constitutional and statutory right of being educated. Hence, it shall be ensured that with the closure of any institution, education of the children is not affected and that they are admitted in any government or other educational institution closer to the place of residence of the child. 
(f) We notice that the Government has been releasing huge funds in favour of the educational institutions since the year 2013 and it is only on account of the directions issued by this Court, pursuant to the filing of the present petition by the petitioner, that the Government has taken remedial measures. Hence, we are hopeful that all further action shall be expedited and appropriate action taken in accordance with law. We may also remind the Government, as is so alleged by the petitioner, that, perhaps, a detailed enquiry needs to be conducted by a high level committee for there are more than 2459 educational institutions which are registered under the Madarsa Act. Additional Chief Secretary, Education Department, Government of Bihar shall file his personal affidavit indicating whether these educational institutions are fulfilling the criteria; have requisite infrastructure as stipulated under law and more specifically under the Madarsa Act and the regulations framed thereunder and the remedial action, if required, taken or not. He shall file his personal affidavit indicating the steps taken within next two weeks.”

The matter has been listed for further hearing on February 14, 2023.

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