There is a lot of commotion in the parents/students over the present row of payment of school/ college fee. The different High Courts have ruled on this issue in their own way. The notable decisions of Allahabad High Court, Uttarakhand High Court, Kerala High Court, Punjab & Haryana High Court & other High Courts are not unanimous in their opinion. Although these Courts have tried to balance the concerns of the schools, the students/parents and the Government but none of them are willing to accept the orders of the Courts. The matter is now in the Apex Court, where PILs have been filed and are pending consideration for final adjudication. It is earnestly hoped that the matter is finally decided to put a logical end to this vexatious issue specially when reopening of schools/colleges is uncertalin in the near future.
A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court by Advocate Reepak Kansal seeking “uniform maximum relief” in the school fee for the period of national lockdown pleading that it is “illegal” and against the principles of natural justice for the schools to demand fee and expenses without rendering services. It is also pleaded that in the absence of Force Majeure clause in the school admission forms, which form a contract between the parent/student and the school, school fee cannot be realised from the students. It is also pleaded that online classes are not mentioned in the admission form and are beyond the “scope of schooling” and the students who have consented for online classes may only be charged for the expenses of the said online classes “proportionately”. It is thus prayed to direct the Government to waive off the school fees. It has also been stated in the PIL that there are several side effects and demerits of online classes and the students are finding it different & difficult to understand the subjects through online classes.
The petition states that private schools are commercial establishments and are not providing any social service to the nation/ society and as such should bear the hazards of business in parity with other businesses due to Corona epidemic. The petioner pleads that due to Lockdown the earning of the citizens has substantially reduced and they are finding it financially difficult to pay the school fee which is illegally being demanded by schools and therefore prays for fee waiver/reduction.
Another PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court by the NGO ‘Justice for Rights Foundation’ pleading the Apex court to direct the Colleges and Universities to waive off fees for the coming semester for imparting relief in view of the financial difficulties arising due to the COVID-19 lockdown. The petition is filed through the founder of the petitioner organization Satyam Singh Rajput with Advocate Amit Kumar Sharma and two law students. The petition prays the Apex Court to waive off or impose a moratorium on academic fees for the next semester irrespective of the College/Institute being public or private, aided or unaided. It is also prayed to restrain the institutes from demanding a lump sum amount from the students.
The petioner points out that due to Covid- 19 global pandemic all schools and colleges have remained shut since March and are likely to remain closed for the coming months. Although, the University Grants Commission has said that the academic sessions would begin from August for existing students and from September for new students but there seems little possibility for the same in view of the rising numbers of infections every day.
It is also asserted that the lockdown has adversely affected the income of households and therefore prays for waiver of fees for the first semester as majority of people are not in financial position to pay the said fees resulting in negation of their right to uninterrupted education guaranteed by our Constitution. “…Right to education can only have effective meaning if it is read as a right to continuous and uninterrupted education” reads the petition.
With the Apex Court seized of the important matter of adjudication of the school fee row, it will be interesting to see how the Court untangles the Gordian knot.