Providing relief to parents and school staffers, the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Jabalpur Bench) on Thursday (05th November) said that the schools can recover only tuition fee from the students during the pandemic era.
The Bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Yadav and Justice Rajeev Kumar Dubey also ordered that Salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff shall be regularly paid on the due date.
Matter before the Court
This order by the Principal Bench came in 10 petitions filed before the court which emanated from the notifications dated 17.04.2020, 24.04.2020 and 16.05.2020 issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education and the School Education Department, State of Madhya Pradesh, regarding payment of fee by parents in Private and connected petitions Unaided Schools during lock-down period in the wake of COVID19 Pandemic.
In fact, the States/UTs were requested to issue suitable instructions on periodicity of payment of school fees and payment of salaries to the teaching and non-teaching staff to be applicable during the period of the pandemic
Consequent thereof, the State of Madhya Pradesh through its School Education Department issued various instructions/circulars.
On the basis of the instructions issued by the State of Madhya Pradesh through its School Education Department, the District Magistrates/Collectors started issuing orders to the institutions that if complete salary to the teaching and non-teaching staff is not regularly paid, the action shall be initiated against them and affiliation would be cancelled.
It was also stated that since the institutions have been directed (by the State of Madhya Pradesh through its School Education Department) not to stuck off the names of the students in the event of non-deposit of amount; therefore, the parents are not depositing the fees.
It was further said that since the management had to bear the establishment expenditure such as salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff which are paid from the fees which are changed under the heads of tuition fee, transport fee, mess fee, sports fee and the annual charges etc.
Accordingly, it was stated that in the event of non-receiving the fees under various heads, the institutions will not pay salaries to teaching and non-teaching staff, will be compelled to lay off the staff engaged in transport, mess and other support staff, will not be able to pay the installments on loans and will ultimately be compelled to close the institution.
The Court, in its order said that in order to strike a balance among the stakeholders which include students/parents, teachers and management/institution, we direct that
· The unaided private institution shall ensure that the students of all ranks are not deprived of the quality education/learning by adopting digital/online education platform evolved by the Government of India under caption "Pragyata" (Guidelines for Digital Education, MHRD dated 14.07.2020) by adopting synchronous or asynchronous method of online learning and teaching.
· 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 01.09.2020 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 programs organized on occasions such as National Festivals, Annual Function, Sporting Events, Development Fees.
· Though there exits District and State Committee for regulating fee and related issues, constituted under sub-section (1) of Section 7 and sub-section (1) of Section 11 of the Madhya Pradesh Niji Vidyalaya (Fees Tatha Sambandhit Vishayon Ka Viniyaman) Adhiniyam, 2017 (for short, 'Adhiniyam, 2017'), to regulate the increment in fee. However, taking into consideration the fact that the entire physical activities in the schools are at stand still and the teaching are imparted through virtual mode; therefore, we direct that there shall not be the increment in fee for Session 2020-21. Subject to that, when the situation normalize i.e. when the Government declares that the Pandemic is over and the Schools return to normal physical functions, the District Committee shall within thirty days from such declaration take decision as to increment of fees for the remaining period of academic session 2020-21 as per the stipulation contained in sub-section (2) of Section 5 of the Adhiniyam, 2017.
· Salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff shall be regularly paid on the due date. In case if any reduced salary is paid, the reduction shall not be more than 20% and arrears towards reduced amount shall be paid with the restoration of normalcy in six monthly equal installments.