The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday set aside a Government Order inasmuch as it made payment of tuition fee by the parents "optional".
The Division Bench comprising Justices Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Jyotsna Rewal Dua set aside two conditions in GO dated May 27 that (i) restricted private schools from depriving any student from online classes for non-payment of tuition fee and (ii) precluded them from charging fine for or striking of a student's name for non-payment of fees.
"In case, the privately managed schools cannot authoritatively charge even the 'tuition fee' then it is beyond comprehension as to how they will pay the monthly salary/emoluments to not only their teaching but non-teaching staff as well. It cannot be assumed that private schools have unending supply of reserve funds with them," the bench observed.
The Court held that expecting the schools to neither stop payment of monthly salary nor reduce the existing total emoluments being paid to their teaching and non-teaching staff but at the same time permitting the schools to collect only the tuition fee, that too on monthly basis without authorizing them to compulsorily realize even this tuition fee is an "unreasonable restriction".
"Private schools henceforth are allowed to charge monthly tuition fees and are authorized to enforce collection of the same. The past tuition fees due towards the private schools are also permitted to be realized by them without charging any fine/late fees after giving two months notice."
However, the Bench clarified that the competent authority of the schools shall examine the genuine representation of a parent regarding his/her inability to pay the tuition fee due to financial issues arising out of the lockdown. The same will have to be decided 'sympathetically' within one week.
The Court further observed that the commercial scenario at present is different from what prevailed a few months ago, amid the lockdown. It therefore directed the State Government to revisit and re-examine all the conditions imposed by it upon private schools, and issue a fresh order within four weeks.
Particularly, the Court has asked the Government to consider whether it would be logical to prevent the schools from charging any other fee, apart from tutiton fees, given that the schools continue to bear infrastructural expenses.
This direction was made was after the private schools argued that apart from tuition fees, they are also entitled to collect the transport charges.
"The transport charges cover not only the maintenance and fuel of vehicles but also cover the insurance payments, loan installments, taxes, salaries of transport staff," the Petitioner argued.
It was further submitted that annual charges levied by the schools amongst others cover repayment of loans taken for building infrastructure of the school, for carrying out further improvements in setting up online educational facilities, payment to software hosts, proposed sanitization of premises on reopening etc.
The matter is now listed for compliance on October 5, 2020.
Case Title: Independent Schools Association v. State of HP & Anr.
Case No.: CWP No. 2202/2020
Quorum: Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua
Click Here To Download Order