As the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic made it inevitable for schools and other educational institutions to shift to the online platform, the Supreme Court on Monday directed educational institutions to reduce the fees levied from students. Citing that the running costs of the institutions have lessened due to closure of on-campus facilities, the Court issued this direction.
It was stated that educational institutions should showcase sensitivity and concern towards parents and students during these tough times of the pandemic and avoid commercialization and profit-making by levying fees for services not provided. The bench also noted that due to the lockdown, schools and other educational institutions had remained closed for most part of the academic year 2020-21, thereby saving significant overheads and allied costs for water, electricity, stationary, petrol/diesel and so on.
Taking up the case where the State government in Rajasthan had ordered private, unaided schools to forgo 30% of their fees during the pandemic, the bench stated that there is no such law whereby such orders could be passed by the State government. Stating that the appellants have every right to approach the Court contesting the order by the Director, Secondary Education, the bench however directed that the schools must reduce the fees.
It ordered that schools supposedly engaged in the noble task of imparting education must showcase sensitivity and responsibility towards the needs, issues and limitations of students and parents owing to the pandemic. It must be ensured that the payment of school fees is rescheduled in such a way that not even a single child is denied the opportunity to pursue education.
Agreeing with the contention of parents demanding a cut in the school fees, the bench deduced without mathematical exactitude approach that the school management must have saved around 15% of the annual school fees. Thereby, much to the relief of parents and students, though the fees should have been refixed by the regulating authority, the Court passed an order for a minimum 15% cut, settling the issue once and for all.
The school managements must now collect annual fees as fixed under the Act of 2016 for the academic year 2019-20 however providing a deduction of 15% in lieu of unutilised facilities during the year 2020-21. Schools shall not debar any student from attending classes (online or offline) on account of non-payment of fees, arrears, outstanding fees.