Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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Background Facts

A bunch of appeals was filed by the Management of private unaided schools of Rajasthan originated from the judgment and order dated 18.12.2020 of the same HC. The appeals were challenging the order dated 09.04.2020, 07.07.2020, and 28.10.2020 passed by State Authorities. The order was related to the postponement of collection of school fees including lessening of fees limit to 70% of tuition fees by schools affiliated with the CBSE and 60% from the schools affiliated with Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education apart from reduction of the syllabus by boards due to pandemic and lockdown from March 2020.

What Parents Have To Say

The parents, while demanding a cut in fees contended before the bench that schools have saved an immense amount of money during these online classes towards water charges, stationery charges, electricity charges, and other miscellaneous charges required for the physical running of the schools.

Court’s Observation

The bench observed that the school and educational institute management needs to be sensitive to the difficulties faced by people due to the current pandemic and steps need to be taken to provide support, aid, and assistance to students and their parents in such harsh times. They stated that asserting on payment for facilities not provided to students amounts to profiteering and commercialization and the same must be avoided by the schools.

Further, they also observed that in law the school and educational institute management cannot be heard to collect fees in admiration of activities and facilities that are, in reality, neither provided nor availed of by its students due to situations beyond their control. Demanding fees in respect of such activities would be nothing less than indulging in profiteering and commercialization. It is well-known fact that due to complete lockdown schools weren’t allowed to open for a significantly long period during the academic year 2020-21. Leading which school management saved overheads and recurring costs on various items such as electricity, petrol/diesel, water charges, maintenance cost, stationery charges, etc.

The Court agrees with the parents' contention and stated that certainly both the operational costs and overheads so saved would be nothing but an amount unjustifiably earned by the school without providing such services to the students during this period. The principle of quid pro quo must come into play. However, there was no accurate empirical data been furnished by either side in regards to such contention. 

Court’s Decision

The bench headed by Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari

The Court while adjudicating the bunch of pleas held that no law gives a mandate to the state government to permit such an order but agrees to the reduction of fees by schools. Hence, the appellants are justified in criticizing the order by the director and secondary education must prosper. 

The purpose behind the school management is engaging in the charitable activity of communicating education and they need to be responsive and active to any such situation and they must take necessary measures to ease down such hardships.

The school management must reschedule payment of school fees in a way not even a single is denied the opportunity of pursuing education. The school management must live and let the students and their parents live.

The court without taking into any mathematical exactitude approach assumed that school management must have saved around 15% of fees per year and thereby fees must be refixed by the regulating authority but the court decides to pass an order for a minimum of 15 percent cut to settle the issue once and for all.

Lastly, the court directed the school not to debar any student from attending either online classes or physical classes merely on basis of non-payment of fees or arrears of fees.

What is your take on such an order passed by the HC? Is it the need of Hour? Tell us in the comments below.


 

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Shreya Taneja Online
06 May 2021    28  Report



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