Delhi High Court has rejected the plea seeking a direction to the Directorate of Education asking it to prohibit schools from charging even the tuition fee during lockdown period.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Hari Shankar noted that the charging of tuition fee is justified as schools are organising online classes, providing study materials, and paying staff salaries.
Mr Naresh Kumar has filed the petition seeking a direction stating that private unaided schools should be prohibited from collecting even the tuition fee in light of the nationwide lockdown.
The Petitioner had argued his claims on two primary submissions:
- The lockdown caused shutting down of businesses and work, making it extremely difficult for parents to even pay the tuition fee of schools at current rates
- As per the Rule 165 of Delhi School Education Rules, schools are prohibited from collecting fees during the lockdown of the school premises.
The court highlighted the gravity of the pandemic, and the extraordinary circumstances facing the country in the following words:
‘The situation, in which we are placed today, is one which the country – and, indeed, the world – has not witnessed earlier and, hopefully, would not have to witness again. It is incumbent, on every member of the populace, to be aware of the forbidding nature of the struggle, between man and microbe, in which each one of us is a participant, willing or unwilling. A joint, cohesive and concerted effort, alone, can result in success in this struggle. This would involve, in its wake, certain sacrifices, which, within the peripheries of the law, each one of us has to make. We cannot afford, in such a situation, to balk at inconveniences.’
The court observed that the Petitioner did not present sufficient locus to file the present petition as neither he’s personally affected by the issue, nor he has made any affected parent or school a party to this petition.
While noting that conducting online classes require extensive infrastructural adjustments and incidental expenses, the court observed that:
‘While there can be no cavil, to the proposition that the requirement of payment of school fees would, necessarily, become enforceable only where the fees are payable, i.e., where the parents are physically in a position to pay the school fees, we cannot agree that, during the period of lockdown, or during the period when online education is being provided by the schools, and availed of, by students, tuition fees should be exempted. So long as schools are disseminating education online, they are certainly entitled to charge tuition fees.’
On the issue of financial burden on the parents, the court noted that the said order of the DoE adequately addresses this issue and directed schools to provide access to online materials to even those students who are unable to pay fees due to the financial constraints faced by their families. Moreover, said order prohibits schools from pressuring such parents from paying the fees.
The court said:
‘We, however, make it clear that we expect the DoE to, while implementing this provision, ensure that it is not misused, and extend its magnanimity only to persons who are, actually, in a state of financial crisis, owing to the lockdown. It would be necessary for parents, seeking the benefit of this relief, to establish, to the satisfaction of the school, or the DoE, that, owing to the lockdown, they are, in fact, financially incapacitated from paying school fees.’
The court found it unnecessary to intervene in the decisions of the DoE and highlighted that:
‘No doubt, where, for unconstitutional reasons, any relief, mandatorily required to be provided, is not provided, or where, in providing relief, the executive administration acts in a discriminatory or arbitrary manner, the Court can – and will – interfere. Where, however, relief has been provided, by the executive administration, this Court, in exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, would not substitute its own view, and direct providing of further relief, save and except in exceptional situations.
Read Order here: