The Madras High Court on Friday allowed all unaided private institutions in the state of Tamil Nadu to collect 40% of the tuition fees as ‘advance fees’, based on the tuition fees for the academic year 2019-2020.
“This advance fee shall be paid by the students on or before August 31”, directed Justice N. Anand Venkatesh.”The balance of 35% of the fees based on the tuition fees collected for the academic year 2019-2020, shall be collected within a period of two months from the date on which the institution is reopened and physical classes commences“, it is ordered.
Hearing the writ petitions of unaided institutions aggrieved of a Government Order which had “virtually put a lid on the institutions from collecting tuition fees” on account of the pandemic situation, the Single Judge opined that “many decisions which seems to be right at the time when it is taken goes completely wrong at a later point of time”. “This is due to the fact that there is no clear visibility as to when the normalcy will be restored”, said the bench.
“Admittedly, all these institutions are unaided and they depend upon only fees collected from the students. This money is required to pay the salary of the teachers and non teaching staff without whom the institutions will not be able to function”, observed the bench.
“The respective managements have managed to pay the salaries to the teachers and the non teaching staffs from their available reserve funds till date. This process cannot go on endlessly”, said the court.
The Single Judge was also alive to the fact that “the other end of the spectrum” is that many of the parents are also in the receiving end either because of no income or with a reduced income and consequently, their ability to pay the fees for their children is also under question.
The court acknowledged that the Covid 2019 Pandemic has posed huge challenges to the entire human kind all over the world, and that “all the Governments are grappling to handle the situation” and “every day new challenges stare at the face of the State and Central Government”.
Besides, the continued lock down/phased opening up of operations, has virtually stalled the economic progress, and the savings and contingency funds are dwindling every day due to the non availability of income. The economic breakdown has virtually come to a stage where the livelihood of many persons is under challenge.
“We are facing a very extreme situation and at this point of time, the courts must be very careful while interfering with the administrative decisions taken by the Government“, clarified the bench.
The other directions issued by the court on Friday are as follows:
1. The bench also permitted such unaided private institutions to collect the arrears of fees payable for the academic year 2019-2020, requiring such arrears fees to be paid on or before September 30.
2. If any student has already paid the entire fees including arrears, the same shall not be a ground to claim for refund of the fees.
3. The fee Committee shall immediately start the process of the determining the tuition fees for the respective institutions and make an attempt to complete the process within a period of eight months starting from August 2020 onwards.
4. The payment of balance if any, shall be determined after the final decision of the fee Committee.
5. The directions given to the fee Committee will not in any way prejudice to the rights of the institutions which have already challenged the jurisdiction of the determination of the fees and which are pending before this Court and the Supreme Court.
6. The teaching and non teaching staff shall not insist for any increment in salary and/or DA, until the restoration of normalcy and further orders of this Court.