The Delhi High Court on Wednesday partially read down the Delhi Government's order restraining private schools from precluding such students from attending online classes, who do not pay tution fee.
In a plea filed by the Queen Mary School Northend, a single bench of Justice Jayant Nath has held,
"Where the parents are in default for payment of tuition fee for more than two months, the petitioner is free to issue an appropriate notice to such parents to explain the reason for the default…
Where the parents are unable to satisfy/demonstrate to the petitioner regarding their financial difficulties, the petitioner is free to so communicate the same to the parents and decline to provide them ID and Password for online education facility for the students."
The Petitioner-school had moved the High Court against the Delhi Government's Circular dated April 18, 2020 (issued by the Directorate of Education's), barring private schools from charging any other component, except tuition fee, till lockdown is in effect.
Further, Clause (viii) of the said Circular stipulated that in no case, the ID and password shall be denied for getting online access of educational facilities/classes/materials to those students who are unable to pay the school fee due to financial crisis arising out of closure of business activities.
The Petitioner had submitted that taking "unfair advantage" of this stipulation about 40% of the students were defaulting in payment of tuition fee, resulting in grave financial crisis to the school.
Significantly, the impugned Circular was also a subject matter of challenge before a division bench of the High Court in Naresh Kumar v. Director of Education & Anr.
In that case, the High Court had refused to interfere with the Government order but had cautioned that its provisions should not be "misused". It had remarked,
"while implementing this provision, ensure that it is not misused, and extend its magnanimity only to persons who are, actually, in a state of financial crisis, owing to the lockdown. It would be necessary for parents, seeking the benefit of this relief, to establish, to the satisfaction of the school, or the DoE, that, owing to the lockdown, they are, in fact, financially incapacitated from paying school fees."
In the present case, the Petitioner sought permission to implement this interpretation/ clarification given by the Division Bench.
Convinced by the submissions, the High Court allowed the schools to deny access to online classes for non-payment of school fees since two months, without a valid reason.
"In case the parents are able to convince/demonstrate to the petitioner about their financial problems/financial incapacity to immediately pay the pending fees, the petitioner shall not take any further steps for the time being against such parents," it held.
It however clarified,
"In case the parents have any grievance against such an order passed by the petitioner School, the parents are free to approach appropriate authority of the Government of NCT of Delhi/respondent."
Case Title: Queen Mary School Northend v. Director Of Education
Case No.: WP (C) No. 4011/2020
Quorum: Justice Jayant Nath
Appearance: Advocates Romy Chacko, Shakti Chand Jaidwl and Varun Mudgal (for Petitioner); Standing Counsel Ramesh Singh with Advocates Santosh Tripathi and Bhawna Kataria (for Respondent)
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