A Special Bench of the Supreme Court today issued notices on a batch of special leave petitions filed against the order of the Uttarakhand High Court whereby private unaided schools were restrained from demanding tution fee from parents, in view of the lockdown situation.
A Bench comprising of CJI SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna, and Justice Hrishikesh Roy has issued notices returnable within two weeks on the petitions preferred by Principals Progressive Schools Association and St. Jude's School, Dehradun, who asserted that impugned order is "founded on fundamentally erroneous legal bases."
Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe of the Uttarakhand High Court had 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. Children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee."
Taking exception to this, the school submitted that payment of fee even for those students who attend online classes, has been made optional or voluntary, which is clearly unreasonable.,
"The Hon'ble High Court has effectively passed final directions keeping the matter pending only for compliance, and erroneously held that even those students, who are able to access and attend the online classes being offered by the private unaided schools may pay the tuition fee only "if they choose to do so".
The private unaided schools have been prohibited from even "sending emails, WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to parents, calling upon them to pay tuition fees". The Order effectively makes attendance of online class and the payment of fees optional, and allows students to avail of online classes without allowing the school to charge tuition fees for such classes," one of the pleas stated.
It is also stated that such a direction making payment of fee optional, directly impinges upon the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) of the Petitioner School and thus, cannot pass constitutional muster as a reasonable restriction.
The school also contended that on one hand the state Government has directed all schools to conduct online classes and regularly pay monthly salaries to its Staff-members, whereas on the other hand payment of schools fees has been made voluntary.
The Petitioners further submitted that the impugned order has the effect of making attendance of online classes optional, which is "subversive of academic discipline."
On the issue of financially weak students being unable to access internet and online classes, the school clarified that such students may be exempted from attending online classes and alternate modes of teaching can be created for them.
Further the school contended that the impugned order was passed in violation of the Principles of Natural Justice since neither the Private schools were given a opportunity of being heard nor the concerned boards, i.e. CBSE and ICSE and State Board were made parties to the proceedings.
Senior Advocate PN Mishra, along with Sudhir Naagar, AOR and Advocate Priyanka Singh appeared for Principals Progressive Schools Association.
Advocates Zoheb Hussain, Adeeba Mujahid(AOR), Vivek Gurnani, Sanjeev Menon and Sharukh Ali appeared for St Jude's School, Dehradun.