The Punjab and Haryana High Court today held that all schools are entitled to collect the tuition fee, irrespective whether they had offered online classes during the COVID-19 lockdown period or not.
The Court issued the following clarificatory directions with respect to levying of school tuition fees:
- Schools are permitted to collect their admission fee, henceforth, since the COVID-19 lockdown has now been lifted. Earlier the date to pay the admission fee had been deferred by the Government to a month after the pandemic conditions improve. “To remove all confusions, the schools should be allowed to recover their admission fee now that the lock-down stands lifted on 08.06.2020 to a great degree”, the High Court said.
- All schools, irrespective whether they offered online classes during the lockdown period or not, are entitled to collect the tuition fee.
- Schools will continue to endeavour and impart online/ distance learning so that education is not adversely impacted due to the present or future lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19.
- The school management of each schools shall work out their actual expenditure incurred under the annual charges for the period the school remained closed. Schools shall recover only such genuine expenditure incurred by them, including actual transport charges and actual building charges, but shall not recover any charge for this period for any activity or facility towards which no expenditure was incurred. The annual charges for the remaining period shall be recovered as already fixed by the school;
- The schools shall restrain themselves from increasing the fee for the year 2020-21 and adopt the same fee structure as of 2019- 20.
- Responding to grievances raised by parents on the levying of schools fees during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Court also issued the following directions:
- Any parent not able to pay the school tuition fee may file their application with proof about their financial status to be looked into by the school- authority.
- After looking into it sympathetically, the school give concession or exempt the entire fee, as the case may be.
- In case the parent is still aggrieved, in any manner, with an adverse decision by the school on his application, he may approach the Regulatory Body, so constituted under Section 7 of the Punjab Regulation of fee of Un-aided Educational Institutions Act, 2016.
- No parent shall misuse the concession by laying a false claim.
- Section 7 of the Punjab Regulation of Fee of Un-aided Educational Institutions Act, 2016 is already in place for looking into the complaints of the parents or guardians with regard to charging of any excessive fee or to do any other activity with the motive to give financial benefit or profit.
- The parents are at liberty to take recourse to the same and, therefore, no specific direction is required to be given by this Court separately.
- In case any school is facing a financial crunch for not having charged the increased fee for the year 2020-21, it may move a representation to the District Education Officer along with its proof of the same.
- The DSE shall look into it and pass appropriate orders within three weeks of the receipt of such an application. However, this may be exercised only in a very hard case where the school is facing financial crunch and has no reserved resources to meet the expenses.
The Court was dealing with a batch of pleas, including by Associations of unaided private schools and parents of school students, filed in the wake of a May 14 notification by the Director, School Education.
The May 14 notification directed, inter alia, that
Schools shall not charge any tuition fee for the period of lockdown/curfew, excluding the period of summer break.
However, those schools who have provided or are providing online education during the period of lockdown, may charge ‘tuition fee’ only, i.e. fee other than building charges, transportation charges, charges for meals, etc.Private schools are advised not the impose any increase in school fees in 2020-21 over those charged in 2019-20.; and School management should not resort to removal of any teacher or reduction in the monthly salary or total emoluments of teaching/non-teaching staff.
The Court added that with respect to parents who are genuinely not in a position to pay the total tuition fee, the May 14 notification has already advised school managements to “sympathetically consider the cases of students whose parents livelihoods may have been adversely impacted due to the lockdown, for fee waiver/concession and that no child may be denied access to education (online or regular) on non-payment of tuition fee.”
Read the order here: