Thursday, December 1, 2022

SC Issues Notice In Plea Challenging Order Restraining Private Schools From Demanding Tuition Fees

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday has issued notice in a plea challenging the order of the Uttarakhand High Court of restraining private schools from demanding tuition fees from parents.

The case was heard by three judges bench comprising of Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde Justice A.S. Bopanna & Justice Hrishikesh Roy heard the petition, whereby the court issued notice.

The petition was filed before the Supreme court by the “Principals Progressive Schools Association” against the order of Uttarakhand High Court, whereby in the High Court the writ petition was filed and the Division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan, and Justice R.C. Khulbe made following directions: –

  1. “The State Government shall appoint the District Education Officer and the Block Development Officer, in each district, to be the Nodal Officers to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay tuition fees by private schools.
  2. Wide publicity shall be given in the media informing the public at large, in the State, that they can address their grievance in this regard to the Nodal Officers.
  3. On receipt of any such complaints, the concerned Nodal Officers shall take prompt action against the erring educational institutions who are coercing parents, to pay the tuition fees of their children, though the Government Order on 02.05.2020 expressly stipulates that payment of tuition fees is voluntary.
  4. Since the Government Order issued on 02.05.2020 enables only those institutions which run online classes to collect tuition fees, it is only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, who would be required to pay the tuition fee, if they choose to do so.
  5. Children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee.
  6. It does appear that subtle means are being adopted by these private institutions to force parents to pay the tuition fees. Since payment of tuition fee by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents calling upon them to pay the tuition fees”.

The State Government of Uttarakhand issued an order on 02.05.2020, in furtherance of its earlier order on 22.04.2020, whereby private unaided schools in the State were permitted to conduct classes online.

In terms of the Government Order on 02.05.2020, these private schools were prohibited from collecting any fees other than tuition fees. This facility for collecting tuition fee was extended to private unaided schools only in cases where they were conducting online classes for its students. The private unaided schools, which were not conducting online classes, were prohibited even from collecting tuition fees from its students. These schools, which were also required to pay the salaries of their teachers and staff from their own funds, were directed to strictly adhere to the instructions issued in the Government Order issued on 02.05.2020.

The Complaint was made through the writ petition before the Uttarakhand High Court that theprivate schools are coercing parents to pay tuition fees though the Government Order on 02.05.2020 made payment of tuition fees by parents voluntary; some of these schools claimed to conduct online classes even for Upper Kindergarten students (i.e. children even below Class 1) and this ruse has been adopted only to collect tuition fees from gullible parents.

Also it was pointed out that e-mails and WhatsApp messages were being sent by these schools calling upon parents to pay tuition fees of their children, though the Government Order required payment of fees to be voluntary; and, since the State of Uttarakhand is a hilly and poor State, several of its inhabitants lack internet access resulting in their children not being able to participate in the online classes conducted by the schools, despite which they are being forced to pay the tuition fees for their children.

After hearing the both sides the Supreme Court issued notice to the state government  and listed the case for further hearing after two weeks.

-India Legal Bureau

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