“No child will be deprived of attending the schools and online classes”
Punjab and Haryana High Court – 30th June, 2020
Judgement reported in
(2020-3)199 Punjab Law Reporter 222
2020 SCe@journal 1046
The Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High court upholding in part the directions issued in the circular dated 14.5.2020 issued by the Director School Education, Punjab, wherein a direction was issued that schools managements should not resort to removal of any teacher or reduction in the monthly salary or total emoluments of teaching/ non-teaching staff has been upheld.
Keeping the interest of children in mind the court has also been pleased to issue directions to protect the interest of parents who have Difficulty in paying school fees. Keeping the Interest of genuine parents who are actually in difficulty and are not in a position to pay the total fee the court has upheld the direction of the Director, School Education wherein School managements were advised 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 fee. The court held that where any parent is not able to pay the school fee he may file their application alongwith necessary proof about their financial status, which shall be looked into by the school authority and, after looking into it sympathetically, 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. The court has cautioned that No parent shall misuse the concession by laying a false claim.
Further the court has held that “No child will be deprived of attending the schools and online classes". However, the same is subject to the parent of such a child moving an application in terms of direction that an application shall be moved by their parents.
Keeping the difficulty in paying annual and quarterly fees, the court has provided respite to parents by upholding the direction that schools should allow the option to parents to pay fees on monthly or quarterly basis.
No increase in School fees for the session 2020-2021 has been allowed. The court while being cognisant of the fact that it may be correct that the directions amount to infringement in the rights granted to the unaided schools under the Act held that no right is absolute and though the direction was only an advisory but it would be in the fitness of the things if the schools restrain themselves from increasing the fee for the year 2020-21 and continue to charge the same as prevalent for the year 2019-20, keeping in mind the overall impact on the economy and every institution having been hit by the same. Some sacrifice, concession, adjustment should be made and contributed by each one.
If any school is facing a financial crunch for not having charged the increased fee for the year 2020-21, they have been given a liberty to move a representation to the District Education Officer alongwith its proof of the same, who shall look into it and pass appropriate orders. 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.
On the point of Admission fees the court held that Schools can charge the admission fee but only when the school reopens.
Qua Tuition Fee the courts view was that it is not disputed that even if schools do not provide online education, the schools are still required to meet the expenses, i.e. Full salary of the teachers and non-teaching staff as well as building, electricity expenses etc.. The schools that are not giving online classes are not exempted from paying the salary of its teaching and non-teaching staff. Hence, there is no rational in laying down such a classification especially when the obligations and basic expenses of all private un-aided schools remain the same irrespective of whether they are conducting online classes or not/ Therefore, direction to the privately unaided Institutions who are not giving online classes not to charge tuition fee for the concerned period was held as discriminatory and arbitrary.
On the point of Annual Charges to be charged by schools, stated to cover building charges, transportation charges, charges for meals etc. , the court took a balanced view so that neither of the parties suffer. It held appropriate that the school management works out only the actual expenditure incurred under the 'Annual Charges' for the period the school remained closed due to lockdown including summer period and recover only such genuine expenditure incurred by it and shall not recover any charges for this period for any co-curricular activity towards which no expenditure was incurred. The Court has consciously observed 'for the period the school remained closed including summer period' as there is no difference in the expenditure whether the school was closed on account of lockdown or summer vacations. School management of each schools have been directed to work out their actual expenditure incurred under the annual charges for the period the school remained closed and 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. However, the annual charges for the remaining period shall be recovered as already fixed by the school.
PUNJAB LAW REPORTER - 2020
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