The Orissa High Court on Thursday disposed of a batch of PILs seeking waiver of school fees levied by private unaided schools in the State, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic from March, 2020 onwards.
The matter was closed after 14 private unaided schools submitted before the Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Dr. Justice B. R. Sarangi, a MoU for waiver of fees at a flat rate in different slabs mentioned therein.
Terms of MoU
- The MoU contemplates waiver of maximum 26% Tution/ composite fee for institutions where fees is above Rs. 1 lakh per annum. Similarly, there a separate slab rates, based on the fee amount. All schools charging fees upto Rs. 6,000/- shall not be liable to offer any waiver.
- The institutions have decided to waive of 'Other Optional Fees' till reopening of schools. However, the charges on Transport and Food shall remain as per actual.
- There is a flat waiver of 30% on Hostel fees.
The Bench said,
"this Court is not persuaded to further issue directions in the matter in light of the MOU arrived at between 14 educational institutions in Odisha on the question of fee waiver during the period of the Covid-19 pandemic."
It has however clarified that if any party to the MoU faces any problem in relation its terms, the same may be agitated in separate proceedings and examined on a case to case basis.
"While this Court has recorded the fact of the MOU having been entered into, this will not preclude individual institutions or parties, who may be aggrieved or who may have a different point of view than that recorded in the MOU, or seek strict enforcement of the terms and conditions of recognition or grant of NOC as set out in the Resolution dated 23rd September 1996, from seeking appropriate reliefs in separate proceedings as are permissible to them in accordance with law," the order stated.
The development comes after the State Government expressed its inability to intervene in the matter as there is no provision under the Orissa Education Act, 1969 ('OE Act') and the Rules framed thereunder for fixation of fee structure of different unaided schools.
The Government also stated that it has no objection if the Court accepts the MoU and passes appropriate directions. It referred to the case of DAV College Managing Committee v. Laxminarayan Mishra, whereby the Supreme Court accepted the recommendations of the Fee Structure Committee, Odisha, for fixation of fees for DAV School.
It is pertinent to note here that certain minority institutions had expressed apprehensions with respect to the terms of the MoU. However, the Court refused to entertain the same, stating,
"The problems faced by any of the parties in relation to any of the terms of the MOU will have to be agitated in other separate proceedings and examined on a case by case basis. No omnibus directions in that regard can possibly be issued at this stage."
Case Title: Mohammed Mustaq Ansari v. State of Odisha & Anr.