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School fee payment plea reaches SC — a look at how 12 HCs ruled on the issue since April

Since the lockdown began in March, several parents have questioned annual fee hikes for new academic sessions, given that schools have remained shut.

Representational Image | Students wearing masks in a classroom | Photo: Abhishek Saha/ANI
Representational Image | Students wearing masks in a classroom | Abhishek Saha | ANI

New Delhi: As the threat of contracting Covid-19 looms large across the country, schools and colleges have remained shut since March this year.

While some have been holding online classes for their students, others have chosen to give them some time off. However, ever since the lockdown began, several parents have questioned annual fee hikes for the new academic session and have even demanded that schools shouldn’t be charging fees during the period of the lockdown.

Education being a part of the concurrent list in the 7th schedule, both the Centre and the state governments can make laws on the subject. But if there is a conflict between the Central and the State laws, it is the Central law that would prevail.

While HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had in April asked private schools to reconsider their decisions on annual fee hikes and collecting quarterly fees during the coronavirus lockdown, there has been no uniformity on the subject across states.

At least nine states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra and Odisha, have issued notifications to the schools in their jurisdiction, with varying relief — some allowing deferment of quarterly fees and others waiving fees except those specifically under tuition.

The matter also reached several high courts. While at least seven high courts have either stayed notifications barring schools from hiking fees or rejected petitions against collection of fees during the lockdown, two high courts so far have advocated for a dialogue between the stakeholders to come to a solution. But there was some good news for the parents too, from the high courts of Uttarakhand and Gujarat.

Meanwhile, a petition has now been filed in the Supreme Court as well, demanding the waiver of private school fees for a period of three months, from April to July 2020, and seeking a direction to schools to not remove enrolled students due to non-payment of fees.

As the Supreme Court gears up to hear this plea, here’s a look at the mixed bag of orders that high courts across the country have issued so far.

Also read: Comply with Covid orders or chief secretary will be summoned: HC to Telangana govt

Bad news for parents from seven HCs

In a setback for parents, the Bombay High Court on 26 June stayed the 8 May government resolution (GR) that barred schools and educational institutions from charging fees at a hiked rate for the 2020-21 session. This GR also prohibited educational institutions from collecting any balance fees for the year 2019-20 or fees for the year 2020-21 at once, and gave parents the option to deposit the fees monthly or quarterly.

Aggrieved by the GR, several educational trusts running schools across the state approached the high court, leading to the stay.

The Kerala High Court, on 30 June, dismissed a PIL against the collection of school fees during the lockdown. The court had been approached by two students seeking a direction to the government to bar schools from collecting fees during the lockdown period. Rejecting the petition, the court took note of the fact that monthly salaries to the teaching and non-teaching staff were still being paid and therefore refused to accept the students’ demands.

On 14 May, the Rajasthan High Court also disposed of a PIL highlighting difficulties being faced by the parents. The court relied on the state government’s assurance that it has deferred payment of private school fees for three months, starting 15 March. However, no such advisory has reportedly been issued so far, even prompting parents to stage protests against the payment of fees in Jaipur.

Similar orders have been issued by a few other high courts. For instance, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 30 June held that all schools, irrespective of whether they offered online classes during the lockdown or not, are entitled to collect tuition fees. It, however, said that schools should restrain themselves from increasing the fee for the academic year 2020-21.

Back in April, the Delhi High Court had rejected a petition seeking a direction to the Directorate of Education to prohibit schools from charging even the tuition fee during lockdown period.

More recently, on 15 June, the Madhya Pradesh High Court stayed the government order restraining private CBSE schools from charging fees other than the tuition fees. It, however, ordered schools to refrain from charging fees for services not rendered by them during closure, such as transportation and mess fees.

The Allahabad High Court had, on 24 June, also dismissed a PIL seeking a direction to all schools and colleges in the State to completely waive off fees, including tuition fees. But another plea has been filed in the high court, seeking a direction to all private schools in the State to charge only the tuition fee and desist from levying other ancillary charges until the lockdown prevails. This petition is currently pending.

Also read: Young boys turn offenders ‘without realising consequences’: HC bats for awareness on POCSO

Calcutta, Madras HCs call for dialogue

The Calcutta High Court, meanwhile, has adjourned the PIL demanding that unaided schools should not be permitted to collect fees during the lockdown period.

This was after the court was informed by the state government on 25 June that a “dialogue” has been initiated between the state authorities and private unaided schools to figure out a solution that would cause “minimum hardship” to students and their families. The case was then adjourned for four weeks, to allow the dialogue “to come to a fruitful conclusion”.

Similarly, the Madras High Court has also expressed hope for a more collaborative effort to deal with the situation. On 30 June, it asked the petitioners — the Federation of Association of Private Schools, the All India Private Educational Institutions Association and the Consortium of Self Financing Professional — to come up with a scheme to allow payment in installments for some time. It asked them to submit this scheme to the government, which was asked to take a decision on the basis of this scheme.

The high court was hearing a challenge to the government order passed on 20 April that restrained all private schools and colleges across the state from demanding fees in view of the Covid-19 lockdown. The government is expected to take a decision on this by 6 July and the case will next be heard on 8 July.

Also read: What colour is God’s skin, asks Punjab & Haryana HC, calls for ending racial discrimination

Flicker of hope from Uttarakhand, Gujarat HCs

However, there was some relief for parents from the Uttarakhand High Court, which, in May, had passed an interim order prohibiting private schools in the state from sending emails and WhatsApp messages asking parents of students to pay tuition fees for online classes during the lockdown. But this order was challenged a few days later and the Supreme Court has issued notice on the plea.

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government, on 22 June, issued an order saying that private schools can neither hike their fee during the academic year 2020-21 in view of the coronavirus lockdown nor take any fee other than tuition charges. Even tuition fees can be charged only by schools that have been conducting online classes during the lockdown, the order added.

The Gujarat High Court had also, on 19 June, asked the state government to ensure private schools do not cancel admission of students who are not able to deposit fees by 30 June. The bench further asked the government to regulate online classes for school students and examine whether the schools’ move to hold virtual classes for children in nursery class is in the interest of their health.

The Orissa High Court has also issued notice to the state government, seeking its reply on a plea for exemption of tuition fees for private schools during the lockdown.

Also read: ‘Operational problems’ in holding CA exams in July-August due to Covid-19: ICAI tells SC

Parents from eight states move SC for uniform policy

In the meantime, parents’ associations from eight states (Rajasthan, Odisha, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Delhi) have now approached the Supreme Court to demand a uniform policy for fee payment across the country during this period.

The petition seeks “protection of fundamental right to life as well as education guaranteed under the Constitution”.

It also highlights the “non-uniformity” in the orders passed by different high courts so far and asserts, “Hence, it is the need of the hour to consolidate the said guidelines/ directions/ orders that have been passed by the various states and respective courts to come to an integrated reasonable fee structuring and collection mechanism effective during such lockdown period and therefore, so as to achieve a harmonious result which shall be uniform across the nation.”

Another PIL, filed by a Delhi-based lawyer, has sought “uniform maximum relief” in the school fee for the period of national lockdown.

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  1. It is very unfortunate that Supreme court,and governments seems working for school and they have no feelings for the general public.
    Our respected Prime minister, education ministers all are silent.
    It’s very shameful for entire media in the country that no one is raising this issues.
    My humble request to Media,Supreme court,PM,CM to see in the issue,many people lost there jobs in this covid Pandemic.
    With tuition fee schools are charging,bus fee,karate,smart class and annual maintenance charges,we as a parent feeling very helpless, if this was not taken care,if we not get support than parents have no other option to pay any how,
    But it will display that all ministry,media,courts have no meaning for general public.

  2. It is really very unfortunate that government and supreme court both are working for the schools,Modi ji our respected prime minister,education minister every one is silent,
    Schools are charging karate,smart class,annual maintenance,bus charges along with tuition fee.
    It’s very shameful for entire media in the country that media is also completely silent on this issue.
    My humble request to Supreme court,Ministry,CM,PM and Media people to see in the issue seriously,several people’s lost there jobs,parents are feeling helpless not getting relief don’t know where to raise our voice,

  3. आखरी विशवास केवल सुप्रीम कोर्ट पर यानी भारतीय न्याय प्रणाली पर ही होता है। किंतु जब न्याय प्रणाली भी पूंजीपतियों की हाथ की कठपुतली बन जाये तो आप सिर्फ किसी चमत्कार की ही आशा कर सकते है।
    दरसल न्यायधीश स्वयम एक समृद्ध व्यक्ति होते है जिन्हें गरीबी रेखा में या उससे नीचे विचरण करने वाले व्यक्तियों के लिए सोचने और उनको समझने का समय नही होता।
    आप सक्षम हो सकते है किंतु सभी नही।
    स्कूल अपनी मनमानी कर रहे है चाहे वो सरकारी मद्दद वाले हो या निजी।
    स्कूल की ट्यूशन फी देना समझ आता है, किन्तु आनुअल चार्ज, बिल्डिंग फण्ड ओर स्मार्ट क्लास जैसे चार्ज स्कूल जबरन फीस बढा कर वसूल रहे है। और सरकार तथा न्याय प्रणाली पुंजिपतियो का साथ दे रही है।
    एक तरफ बोलते है पढ़ेगा इंडिया तो बढ़ेगा इंडिया और सर्व शिक्षा अभियान चलते है दूसरी तरफ फीस के बोझ में जनता को मारते है।
    दो मुँह सर्प की भांति हैमे डसा जा रहा है ।
    सलाम ऐसे हिंदुस्तान को जंहा शिक्षा का मोल चमड़ी बेच के चुकाना पड़ता है।

  4. कोर्ट देश कां सर्वोत्तम न्यायालय भी जनता कि तरफ से नही होते हुये स्कूल कि तरफ से , फुल फीस भरने के आदेश .जाये तो कहा जाये .मरो लेकिन फीस भरो .

  5. Hey please someone tell the conclusion for the matter of school fee to be fully submitted or any exemption has been done by the sc😊

  6. so in my opinion I think all private school children should take admission in government schools in this covid era and in this way parents are also burden free from fees and government teacher are very good in their work because they deserve to be real teachers as they had qualified the teaching exams not like private school teachers who have no specialisation as such.
    so it is better to give these private school a answer to there illegal and demanding hikes in fees and black marketing and not making fool of teacher with low pay and on either side filling their black funds.
    private school has made education a business and they really don’t care for anyone either parents or their own teacher
    they had made education a joke so all should come together and boycott the conduct of these private schools .
    thank you

  7. The parents will pay their tuition fees only in the academic session 2020_21. The school management will pay salary to staffs of school..The school management will not collect other fees during this session.. For poor students ,they will pay their fees install mentally.No students will be left from other school. Online classes will be done for the students till reopening of school of Corona pandemic situation of country. I hope it will be granted both school & parents.

  8. Tuition fees itself contribute to 95% of the fee component every quarter. We are just fighting for the 5% component that too till covid exists..which is peanuts..therefore I should suggest that we should fight for Annual charges which is equal to 1 quarter fees which increases year on year along with the tuition fees..May be each child during his school career pays nearly 3 lacs. And 3k to 4k students makes it a huge amount..may be around 150 crores till now on a 10 crore building..so actually speaking the building has already collected its investment amount long back and all parents contributed in the annual charges are the owners of the building..then whatever schools have earned on our building ie 140 crores should be distributed amongst the parents paid annual charges..pls think over it and I should suggest that this annual charge shall be removed once for all and they have no right to charge any more..

  9. We r not saying to completely waive the fees,
    But what about those facilities which we haven’t, our wards haven’t used, for sake of example take the computer lab fees (which school charges ₹2000-₹10000) and sports ,Yoga,etc . fees(₹1000-₹10000).
    Please think over it.

    Even Teacher’s kids are also studying,they r also parents, they all will also agree to this. As they themselves know that their ward have not played any type of sports,not used Computer labs, Science labs too…

    Please, go and conduct the survey with those teachers who get benefitted from the school of 50%fees only for their kids. They will surely agree to these points.

    Sorry, if anyone has felt disappointed.
    It’s not to harm anyone, neither Teacher’s nor Parents nor to the citizens of this country.

  10. May I know that what’s the current status of appeal is supreme court given any verdict or not

  11. What’s a school fee, its a contract between the school n parents,
    my child uses the school premises ,requiring maintenance, i pay for it.
    school library,i pay for it.
    Uttilize the service of teaching from teachers in person which include 7 to 8 lectures par day, which require payment to teachers,i pay for it
    sits in class uses fan, tube light, school computer which require electricity, i pay for it.
    uses bathrooms of school which requires cleaning equipments,i pay for it.
    I pay to school as my child utilises all theses services
    Now when when u are not providing any of these facilities, why should I pay the whole fee, as simple as that.
    No parent is demanding entire waiver of fee,
    divide the fee in no of educational month’s, waive the fee for month’s not used, will pay the rest.

  12. Its a failur of Goverment at large. Failur of authorities who are getting full salary in this time. Parents are facing problems, School management are in problem, Teachers are in big problem , and students are also. All are playing yet politics on it, not a single constructive suggestion. Why government have no scheme to support private school/ colleges like a Industries.
    Reality is that, all parents are not facing financial problems. May be 10-20% , but not all. These is also a spreading like corona, If it is Available in free, why should pay ??? Even capable to pay. It also true if you were not capable to pay fee never you have taken admission of your wards in private school.
    Its endless story….no one has ethics at all.
    Last…People are playing politics… Government should neutral…but they wants keep vote secure.
    Let, hope fore best from supreme court !

  13. This whole idea of online classes is absolutely useless because first of all, most of the children will only be playing online games during online class time and the teacher will never know. Moreover, the expense of online class is another burden on the parents as they have to buy computers and wifi connections too for every child in the family. Me as a parent of 3 children, had to provide 3 computers and install new routers…which cost a bomb. Now I still to have to pay the school fees which haven’t been reduced so far…..one question that keeps coming to my mind. Is why do teachers have to be paid during the lockdown when all our maids and almost all staff in most companies worldwide haven’t been paid during this lockdown. So If everyone is suffering because of the lockdown, then the teachers too can be part of it too. . This question is for those people who strongly support paying school fees and the teachers….have u paid your maids during the lockdown????? They need it more badly then these well paid private school teachers!!

  14. Education lobby is most corrupt lobby in the country, all political parties as well as courts as well are hand in glove with it. Teachers salaries makes fraction of what the school charge from parents, so logic of justify fees does not stand a merit. Supreme court will also be managed by same lobby….

    • Yes completely agree… Education sector is directly or indirectly run by politicians and even law is managed accordingly… So there will be no respite for parents..

  15. Thank you for presenting the current scenario of private school teachers with clarity. If some of the state governments cannot give a balanced judgement they should shoulder the responsibility of paying the private school teachers. Most of the children of government employees study in private schools and if they think they are being charged highly irrespective of the fact of the innumerable facilities being provided to their wards , then they should remove their wards from private schools. Moreover most of the private schools are conducting online classes to keep the students connected with academics. Training and facilities are provided to the teachers for taking these classes at a cost. Nothing comes free, hence the teachers who are putting exemplary efforts to reach out to the students must be paid and the parents must rethink of their decision of not paying the fees.

    • Well u said about the facilities that private schools are providing. Please enlighten us how yhey are providing the same facilities with online classes. If u order a phone and the company just sendsu the a screen instead saying that its coz of lockdown, will u be ok with it? I say they charge only tuition fee to be fair

  16. Why parents only think for teacher only…they should also think of restaurant onwer , car dealership owner , cinema complex owner , wedding planners , artists…
    Online classes are going through without giving any laptop , wifi connections….by schools…
    Great india ….
    Why only schools…what about others….we also have to pay them…whether we are earning or not….
    But schools should get fee…only by parents not by management…..

    • Dont attend and dont pay thats what u mean to say if u hav a child who studies in nursary n online classes going on for them then better dont attend n dont pay, pls dont give your point of view onesidedly, today your able to write all this only because you were taught by a teacher n if not who knows u could be a illiterate ,have some respect even if u dont wnt to pay.

  17. Private schools already charge too high on the pretext of various activities which are not possible during this period. When parents don’t have means of earning then from where they will pay the hefty amounts of school fee. Private schools have hired their staff on the basis of their own status and it is their responsibility to pay minimum wages to teachers during this locking period, they have no right to extort it from the parents who are already unemployed and worried about the future of their children. It is true that they r providing 1-2 hour on line classes and for that any reasonable amount can be fixed and that should not be the basis of actual school fee.

  18. The same question may be reversed to the School Managements when many are laid off and no income during this lockdown period. Online classes are not effective or productive as the school can claim so and everyone know this. The teachers should be paid during the lockdown, well I just put forth a question to the management that they don’t have any resources earn’t through these many years?…they can pay the teachers and balance the deficit once the lockdown is over. Well my wife herself is a professor working at a reputed University but been paid only 50% during the lockdown but overloaded with work (NAAC, NBA) apart from the academics (online classes). The situation is difficult at every end. It’s a burden for everyone at this moment. The Government should have run the schools 80-90% and only the remaining should be given to the private. If this was the scenario the situation now would have been different. But the government is least bothered about it. Well..having a Acadamecian in my family and also a parent of the child struggling to pay the fees…it’s a difficult situation for all of us.

  19. Dr. Urvashi Sahni ( Educationist, Social Entrepreneur, Womens Rights Activist - Asoka Fellow) Lucknow, India

    How do parents think teachers should be paid? Who should pay them? How should their families survive? I agree that fee increments are unwarranted and monthly payments should be collected not quarterly. But exempting parents from paying fees during lockdown and beyond is totally unfair to thousands of private schools who have continued to do online classes during lockdown, have paid their teachers and other staff and are keeping the system running. It is important for parents to think of teachers too. In case SC passes some untenable order, private schools will have no choice but to start laying off teachers, adding to growing problem of unemployment and hunger.

    • But how should a parent will pay? Have you thought of that? Just like other businesses, education is also a kind of business. They should use their fd or saved amount. All businesses are facing this economic depression. What about middle class people, no one have plenty of money now a days to even fulfill their daily requirements.

    • But how should a parent will pay? Have you thought of that? Just like other businesses, education is also a kind of business. They should use their fd or saved amount. All businesses are facing this economic depression. What about middle class people? no one have plenty of money now a days to even fulfill their daily requirements.

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