Pressure on public schools demanding for fees; Supreme Court issues notice on pleas challenging Uttarakhand High Court’s orders

Team SoOLEGAL 28 May 2020 5:13pm

Pressure on public schools demanding for fees; Supreme Court issues notice on pleas challenging Uttarakhand High Court’s orders

A Special Bench of the Supreme Court on 28th May ’20  has issued notices on a batch of special leave petitions filed against the Uttarakhand High Court ruling that private unassisted schools were excluded from the parents' demand for not charging tuition fees in the light of the lockdown situation.

A Bench consisting of CJI SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna, and Justice Hrishikesh Roy issued returnable notices within two weeks. The petitions preferred by the Principals Progressive Schools Association and St. Jude's School, Dehradun, which argued that the contested order was "founded on fundamentally erroneous legal bases".

Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe of the High Court of Uttarakhand have ordered that “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. Children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee.”

With the exception of this, the school submitted that the payment of the fee, even for those students who attend online classes, was optional or voluntary, which is clearly unreasonable.

“The Hon'ble High Court has effectively passed final directions keeping the matter pending only for compliance, and erroneously held that even those students, who are able to access and attend the online classes being offered by the private unaided schools may pay the tuition fees only if they choose to do so".

According to one of the pleas “The private unaided schools have been prohibited from even "sending emails, WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to parents, calling upon them to pay tuition fees". The Order effectively makes attendance of online class and the payment of fees optional and allows students to avail of online classes without allowing the school to charge tuition fees for such classes.”

It is also claimed that such a course, by making the payment of a fee optional, explicitly affects the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Petitioner 's School and, thus, cannot pass a constitutional requirement as a reasonable restriction.

The school also claimed that, on the one hand, the state government had ordered all schools to conduct online classes and to pay monthly salaries to its staff members, while, on the other hand, the school fees had been charged on a voluntary basis.

The petitioners further submitted that the challenged order had the effect of making "subversive of academic discipline e" an optional online class attendance.

With regard to the issue of financially weak students being unable to access internet and online classes, the school clarified that such students could be exempted from attending online classes and that alternate teaching methods could be created for them.

Tagged: Supreme Court   Uttarakhand   High Court   lockdown   CJI SA Bobde   Justice AS Bopanna   Justice Hrishikesh Roy   Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan   Justice RC Khulbe  
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