On 17 August 2020 a prayer for further relaxation in the payment school fees amid the pandemic was refused by the Calcutta High Court as it would have been a deviation from the Court’s earlier directions issued in July (VineetRuia v. State of West Bengal).
A petition seeking discounts on school fees in view of reduced maintenance expenditure during the COVID-19 pandemic was heard by the Bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Moushumi Bhattacharya.
The Court in its July 21 interim order had directed the remittance of 80% of dues payable by July 31. An additional prayer in response to thisseeking a further reduction in payment had been raised.
Though an extension in time for paying the fees was allowed, but the prayer for relaxation in payment was specifically rejected in yesterday’s order.
It was also informed to the Court thatas directed earlier some schools had not allowed the payment of 80% of the school fee rather insisted on the payment of 100% of the school fee.
The Court has restrained taking any “coercive action” against the students who have not yet remitted the fee in such schools.
The order reads that “If there are any schools which have not opened up windows for payment of the 80 per cent of theschool fees till July 31, 2020 by the parents or students, such schools will not be entitled to take coercive action against the students or to exclude the students from the virtual classes or taking part in the virtual examinations.”
The constitution of a committee comprising of Professor Suranjan Das, Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University (subject to his assent), and a nominee of the Advocate-General to ascertain each private unaided school’s accounts and fees due has been done by the court.
The Choice for second member of the Committee from among the recently retired heads of the State Higher Secondary Board or Secondary Board has been given to the Advocate General.
Through the Advocate General and the Additional Solicitor General, the State, has been asked to collate the details of schools and school fees including the schools already impleaded and those likely to be affected by the Court’s final judgment.
Further, associations were grantedthe liberty to address the Court without being formally impleaded as parties that sought to be impleaded to proceedings at hand by Court.
The High Court has requested the lower courts and other for against admitting suits governing the issues being decided by it after one of the schools raised concern of school fees is being adjudicated in other fora.
“There cannot be an omnibus injunction issued by court. However, it is hoped that the matters are not complicated by persons approaching various fora. Since the High Court of the State is in seisin in the matter, the other fora that are approached should be cautious in receiving the actions.”The Court mentioned.
The formal constitution of the Committee for school fees decision is expected to be taken up on 18th August 2020.
The petitioner was represented by Advocate Priyanka Agarwal.
Advocate Sayan Sinha assisted Advocate General Kishore Dutta in making submissions for the State.
Advocates Anirban Ray, AniruddhaMitra and Sabyasachi Choudhury represented the other respondents in the matter.
Read the Order here: