Kerala HC Stresses Need For Mechanism To Regulate Fees in Private Schools [Read Order]

Kerala HC Stresses Need For Mechanism To Regulate Fees in Private Schools  [Read Order]

"Education is a charitable activity; both the provider and the beneficiary have to see that in such a manner. There cannot be any element of profit except for the further development of the school infrastructure", Justice Mustaque observed in the order

While dealing with writ petitions concerning fee hike in a private school, the High Court of Kerala lamented that there was no statutory mechanism in place to address grievances regarding fee hike in private schools.

The case arose out of fee hike in Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidhya Mandir, a private CBSE affiliated school in Ernakulam. Some parents protested the fee hike, resorting to strike and "dharna". The protest assumed acrimonious proportions, resulting in expulsion of the children of protesting parents. Certificates and marklists of certain students were withheld by the School. They approached the Kerala State Commission for Child Rights, which forwarded the matter to the Government for enquiry. The District Collector also intervened in the matter meanwhile, directing return of withheld certificates. Challenging the actions of Child Rights Commission and District Collector, the school filed two writ petitions. The parents too approached the Court challenging School's action against their children.

Justice A. Muhammed Mustaque, who considered the matter, expressed equal disapproval of both the action of the school and the manner of protests adopted by parents.

"The parents lost their sense of responsibility and the school authorities responded to the protest in an equally aggressive manner. It seems that the school, which has a duty to impart learning and sense of culture to the students, has lost all sense about their duties", Justice Mustaque remarked.

It was observed that both the school and parents were thinking only about the money aspect, putting aside the interests of children. The Court noted that the conflict arose due to the lack of a proper mechanism to address complaints regarding fee hike.

"If there had been any mechanism for providing redressal to such greivances, this issue might not have boiled up to this level. Perhap's, State's oversight on this issue may create problem in similar manner in future. It is for the State to curb such tendency by evolving a mechanism to regulate the fee structure"

It was further observed that no Court can determine the appropriate fee which could be fixed by a school. Hence, the need for such a mechanism was stressed observing that lack of credible platform under law to resolve conflict will lead to chaos.Therefore, the State Government was suo moto impleaded in the matter.

"The State has legislative power under Constitution to make laws in relation to education. Such power includes the power to regulate the fees levied by an educational institution. If any educational institution's fees is not corresponding to the facilities and infrastructure provided by them, it can be said that it is running for profit.In such an event, the State can interfere", the Court observed.

The Court further observed that the fight between management and parents should not result in deprivation of rights of children.

Upon the parents undertaking to remit the fees fixed by the School, the Court directed the school to re-admit the expelled students forthwith.  The Court also ordered that the parents should not create any protest or stage any "dharna" in the school premises. Any such act will result in criminal action, the Court cautioned.

Though the dispute was resolved, the matter has been kept pending, to ascertain the views of the State Government about the concern expressed by the Court.

Read Order