In a big relief to private unaided schools in the state, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has allowed them to collect 70% school fees from the students.
The schools have also been asked to pay 70% salaries of the teachers.
This interim direction has come in a writ petition filed by Independent Schools' Association, Chandigarh, against a Memo dated May 14, whereby on one hand the schools had been precluded from collecting building charges, transportation charges, and charges for meals etc., while on the other hand they had been directed not to reduce the salary of the teachers.
The Petitioner-Association had contended that the Memo lay "contradictory conditions", keeping in view that on one side parents are to be given concession of not depositing the full fees and on the other side, schools are being directed not to reduce the salary of the teachers.
Based on these submissions, the bench of Justice Ritu Bahri granted interim relief to the Petitioner and ordered,
"Keeping in view the present circumstances, interim direction is being given that the admission fee which is paid one time by the parents, shall be paid in two equal installments in six months and the 70% of the total school fee will be charged from the parents of the students and 70% salary will be paid to the teachers during the pendency of this writ petition."
Inter alia, the Petitioner had informed the court that the Punjab School Education Board maintains a "Reserve Fund" whereby all the private un-aided schools deposit money; and at present it amounts to Rs. 77 Crores.
Nevertheless, it was submitted, Govt. of Punjab had not come to help them for running school with minimum staff or for sanitization.
In view thereof the bench has directed the State Counsel to get instructions as to "how the respondents can help the private schools with regard to amount deposited in the 'Reserved Fund' for sanitizing the school buildings."
Further, the court has asked the State Government to file a detailed reply with respect to the issues raised in the petition.
The matter will be taken up on June 6.
In other states like Uttarakhand, the High Court had restrained all private unaided schools in the state from demanding tution fee from parents, in view of the lockdown situation. The High Court clarified that only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, would be required to pay the tuition fee. Children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee.
In Rajasthan, the High Court disposed of a PIL seeking waiver of school fees, after the Government apprised the court that on April 9, 2020, the Government had issued an order for deferring the due payment of private schools fee, as on March 15, 2020, for three months.
Meanwhile the Delhi High Court has held that charging of tuition fee is justified as schools are organising online classes, providing study materials, and paying staff salaries.
Case Title: Independent Schools' Association Chandigarh (Regd.) & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Ors.
Case No.: CWP No. 7409/2020
Quorum: Justice Ritu Bahri
Appearance: Advocate Aashish Chopra (for Petitioner); Deputy Advocate General Anu Pal (for State)
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