The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Petitioners to serve advance notice to the Respondents in a plea challenging an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court wherein directions were given to private unaided CBSE schools to charge only tuition fees from its students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar heard the matter and proceeded to tag the plea with the matter pertaining to appeal against the Rajasthan High Court's order wherein the State Government's order to private CBSE and RBSE schools in the State to forego 30% and 40% tuition fee respectively, was upheld.
The matter will now be heard on 5th February.
The plea, filed by Advocate Mayank Kshirsagar, submits that the High Court ignores the issues of lumpsum payments, clarity of the term "tuition fees", the various fund and reserves available with private unaided schools, non-disclosure of actual incurred expenses, adverse effects of online education, hardships of 25% EWS category students etc.
"The non-consideration of vital issues as stated above, has rendered the Impugned Order unjust and unfair, depriving the fundamental right to education under Article 21A to the students of the State of Madhya Pradesh".
The plea delineates how all activities, including the educational sector, were completely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic which led to a catastrophic effect on the economy of the country with many people losing their jobs or getting a deducted/nil income.
"The school going children and students were unable to attend the physical classes at their respective schools. Some of the private aided/unaided schools made arrangements for online classes in April 2020, however, the same has not been universally made available and even case where no online classes are being conducted the schools are charging normal fees and rather some schools have hiked the fees".
The issue raised is that despite the non-functioning of the schools and the students not availing services provided by the schools, many of them hiked their fees and/or started harassing the students' parents to pay the entire quarterly fees in advance.
Further, the High Court directed the schools to charge only the tuition fees as mentioned in the prospectus.
"No substantial relief in the form of waiver of fees, or reduced fees, or proportionate fees as per actual expenditure etc. was granted to the students, leaving their parents with a huge financial burden to bear, impliedly resulting in the children and students' right to life and education getting infringed and violated".
The plea also states that no specific provision/directions was issued with regard to the 25% economically and socially backward/weaker students under RTE Act, 2009.
In light of the above, it is prayed that, viewing the children's interests with paramount consideration, the impugned Order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court is set aside.