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Supreme Court directs MP to prepare list of schools that charged tuition fee during pandemic

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The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the state of Madhya Pradesh to prepare and publish on its website, a report of the schools that had complied or not complied with the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court dated November 4, 2020, whereby the schools had been directed to charge only tuition fee, given the closure of schools during the pandemic and the interests of the employees who had to be paid salaries.

The Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna granted liberty to the schools and the students to make representations to appropriate authorities, in case of discrepancies in the report/complaints. 

Mayank Kshirsagar, AOR assisted by Pankhuri and Dhruv Chawla, appearing for the parents in the main matter, raised the grievance that the schools were directed to charge only ‘tuition fee’, however, the schools had changed their heads of computation and termed various expenses as tuition fee.

He emphasized on the fact that the definition of ‘tuition fee’ had been left vague and therefore the schools had aggregated all charges together and called it tuition fee. 

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The Supreme Court thereafter asked Advocate for the State, Mrinjal Elkar Mazumdar, to ask the officials to ensure that the directions of the High Court are followed. Anupam Lal Das, Senior Advocate appearing for the unaided schools, brought notice of the Court to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Rajasthan case, where this Court had formulated modalities for the payment of fee during the pandemic.

The apex court today confined itself to the present year, which was the context of the High Court‘s order. 

The petitioners before the High Court were the Management, Parents and Teachers/Employees of unaided CBSE Schools, who were aggrieved regarding payment of fee by parents in Private Unaided Schools during the lockdown period, in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the High Court, the association of private unaided schools had taken the plea that based on instructions of the state of Madhya Pradesh through the School Education Department, the District Magistrates had started issuing orders if the teaching and non-teaching staff is not regularly paid. Further since the names of students could not be struck off, the parents were not depositing fees. Hence, it was their submission that in the event of non-payment of fee under various heads, the institutions would not pay salaries and will be compelled to lay off the staff or close the institution. 

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The High Court, in the order, balanced the interests of the schools and the parents and had directed that:

“(ii) Though the Schools are presently closed and there are no extra-curricular activities; however, the expenses on teaching and non-teaching staff/employee are to be meted out and since these private unaided educational institutions do not receive funds from the Government and are entirely dependent on fees to meet out the salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff and other daily expenses, the students/parents shall pay the Tuition Fee as per order dated September 1, 2020, which shall not be inclusive of Library Fee, Reading Room Fee, Games Fee, Laboratory Fee, Computer Fee, Practical Fee, Examination Fee (subject to if the examinations are not held) and Fee for programmes organised on occasions such as National Festivals, Annual Function, Sporting Events, Development Fees.”

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