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Uttarakhand HC Restrains Private Schools From Demanding Tuition Fee From Students Who Are Unable To Access Online Classes [Read Order]

Akshita Saxena
14 May 2020 1:00 PM GMT
Uttarakhand HC Restrains Private Schools From Demanding Tuition Fee From Students Who Are Unable To Access Online Classes [Read Order]
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"It does appear that subtle means are being adopted by these private institutions to force parents to pay the tuition fees. Since payment of tuition fee by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents calling upon them to pay the tuition fees."

The Uttarkhand High Court on Tuesday restrained all private unaided schools in the state from demanding tution fee from parents, in view of the lockdown situation.

The order has been passed by a bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe in conformity with the state Government's order dated May 2, 2020, whereby private schools were prohibited from collecting any fees other than tuition fees and payment of tuition fees was made voluntary.

The bench has directed that "it is only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, who would be required to pay the tuition fee, if they choose to do so."

While the court acknowledged that the schools incurred huge expenditure towards payment of salaries to their teachers and staff and maintenance of other faculties, it went on to hold that "the object of the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 is to ease the burden on parents, who do not even have the means to earn their livelihood in this period of crisis."

The bench observed,

"While the difficulties of these institutions, in having to incur expenditure without collecting fees from its students, is understandable, times of crisis like these would require the haves to extend a helping hand to the have-nots. The Government Order dated 02.05.2020 binds these private schools and, as long as it continues to remain in force, they are bound to adhere to the conditions stipulated therein."

As per the Govt order, the facility for collecting tuition fee was extended to private unaided schools only in cases where they were conducting online classes for its students. The private unaided schools, which were not conducting online classes, were prohibited even from collecting tuition fees from its students.

However, the bench was apprised while hearing of two PILs filed by Japinder Singh and Akash Yadav, that the private schools in the state had been "coercing parents" to pay tuition fees.

It was informed that some of the schools were conducting online classes even for Upper Kindergarten students, "only to collect tuition fees from gullible parents."

Restraining all schools from indulging in such activities, the bench issued the following directions:

  1. "The State Government shall appoint the District Education Officer and the Block Development Officer, in each district, to be the Nodal Officers to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay tuition fees by private schools.
  2. Wide publicity shall be given in the media informing the public at large, in the State, that they can address their grievance in this regard to the Nodal Officers.
  3. On receipt of any such complaints, the concerned Nodal Officers shall take prompt action against the erring educational institutions who are coercing parents, to pay the tuition fees of their children, though the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 expressly stipulates that payment of tuition fees is voluntary.
  4. Since the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 enables only those institutions which run online classes to collect tuition fees, it is only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, who would be required to pay the tuition fee, if they choose to do so.
  5. Children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee.
  6. It does appear that subtle means are being adopted by these private institutions to force parents to pay the tuition fees. Since payment of tuition fee by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents calling upon them to pay the tuition fees."

The Petitioners had contended that the State of Uttarakhand is a hilly and poor State, wherein several of its inhabitants lack internet access resulting in their children not being able to participate in the online classes conducted by the schools, despite which they are being forced to pay the tuition fees for their children.

Responding to this the bench remarked that a statutory obligation is cast on private unaided schools, under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, to provide free education to certain categories of students who can ill-afford to pay the fees. It also clarified that students who do not have access to online classes will not be required to pay tution fee.

The court has now asked the Secretary, Department of School Education, to submit a report stating the following:

  1. The Secretary, School Education, shall call for information from all the District Education Officers regarding the number of private schools, in their respective districts, which offer online courses, and the number of students who have access to such online courses. Information shall be obtained from each of these private schools as to whether tuition fees is being collected even from those students who have no access to the online course offered by the schools, and whether these schools have collected tuition fees from such students also. This information shall not only be collected from students of Class 1 to Class 10, but also with regards children who are undergoing their Upper Kindergarten. The Secretary, School Education, shall submit a detailed report in this regard to this Court by the next date of hearing.
  2. The Secretary, School Education, shall also furnish information regarding online classes being conducted by private schools for Upper Kindergarten students. He shall consider the wisdom in conducting such online programmes for these children in Upper Kindergarten, examine whether this is just a ruse to collect tuition fee from them, and issue appropriate directions, to all such private schools, in this regard as he considers appropriate."

The matter will be heard on May 26.

Case Details:

Case Title: Japinder Singh v. Union of India and Akash Yadav v. State of Uttarakhand & Ors.

Case No.: WP (PIL) No. 59/2020 and 60/2020

Quorum: Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe

Appearance: Advocates Ajay Veer Pundir and Abhilasha Belwal, holding brief of Advocate Lalit Belwal (for Petitioners); Chief Standing Counsel Paresh Tripathi (for State); Asst. Solicitor General Rakesh Thapliyal (for Union of India); Advocates Sandeep Tiwari, SK Mandal and Shikhar Kacker (for applicants in Impleadment Applications).

Click Here To Download Order

Read Order


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