PIL In HC Against Sealing of School on Public Land by Bank Due to Non-Payment of Loan

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) came up for hearing before the Delhi High Court on Monday seeking protection of interest of students enrolled with schools located on public land which have been mortgaged and may be auctioned by banks over non-payment of loan.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad heard arguments on behalf of the petitioners and the respondents and reserved its order on the petition.

“We will pass appropriate orders. Arguments heard and order reserved,” the bench said.

The petition urged the court to protect the fundamental right to education guaranteed to over 900 students enrolled at Laxmi Public School at Karkardooma in East Delhi as well others who are studying in such institutions whose land has been mortgaged and may be sealed or auctioned in future for non-payment of loan.

Petitioner NGO Justice for All, through advocates Khagesh B Jha and Shikha Sharma Bagga, also sought the court’s directions for enquiry as to how the leasehold land of Laxmi Public School has been mortgaged.

It also sought financial stability of societies seeking allotment of public land for charitable or institutional purposes.

The petition submitted that Bagga was surprised to know from a news report of April 17 that a bank has taken over the school building for loan default.

Jha submitted the petition was not regarding one particular school but several schools which are built on public land where the authorities take loan against the building and fail to repay.

Standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi and advocate Arun Panwar, appearing for the Delhi government, said the land parcel belonged to the government and was given to Laxmi Educational Society under the Government Grants Act for the purpose of running a school and the society could not have dealt with it further under the Transfer of Property Act.

Tripathi submitted this land was never available to the bank as any other land to be purchased from any institution.

He said the Delhi government’s objective was to protect students and promote education.

The counsel representing the school and the society opposed the petition claiming it was a publicity stunt and the petitioner has filed the plea without any basis or material and added that it should be dismissed with costs.

The petition said a large number of institutions have first obtained land at throwaway prices, then taken loan from banks to create five star facilities. This, it said, increased the competition for luxury in education and resulted in commercialisation of education. These institutions mortgaged the land risking the education of children, it said.

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” the present example of the respondent school is one of the classic examples of the device used by the management and failure of authorities to reconstruct the asset, that is, school,” it said.

The petition said things have reached a stage where the school is going to be auctioned for repayment of loan and guidelines for business are being enforced on school land which is otherwise a public land reserved for public institutions.

“The bank in the guise of seeking possession of the school has sealed it, thereby disturbed the education of students enrolled in the school. The mortgage/ auction of lease hold land of unaided school would be detrimental for the education of the presently enrolled and prospective students of the respondent school, and thereby would hamper the planned development of union territory of Delhi,” the plea said.

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