HC lets schools charge last year’s dues at concessional rate; parents unhappy
The Delhi high court on Monday set aside two orders issued last year prohibiting private schools from collecting annual charges and development fee during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, and held that schools may collect these charges for the last academic year retrospectively, on a monthly basis, but only after a 15% reduction in lieu of unutilised facilities (such as water and electricity) in the lockdown period.
Justice Jayant Nath said two orders of the Delhi government -- of April 18, 2020, and August 28, 2020 -- were “illegal and “ultra vires” to the powers of Delhi government’s Directorate of Education (DoE), under the Delhi School Education (DSE) Act and Rules. “The acts are prejudicial to the said schools and would cause an unreasonable restriction in their functioning,” the court said.
The ruling came on a plea by Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, an umbrella of around 450 private schools, which had challenged the two orders of the Delhi government.
Delhi government officials privy to the matter said the government will “immediately appeal against the order”.
Advocate Kamal Gupta , who appeared for the petitioner schools, said, “Schools shall be permitted to charge their whole fee, as in all other spheres and walks of life, even during the pandemic.”
The petitioner had argued that DoE, instead of seeking to regulate the fee to prevent commercialisation and profiteering, is being influenced by the dictates of the political establishment.
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The government, on the other hand, said several schools were still asking for annual charges and development fee, and this should not be done in view of the acute financial burden on parents in times of the pandemic.
The annual charges relate to hostel expenses, administrative expenses, rent, communication expenses, printing and stationery, electricity, and water charges, among others.
Development fee pertains to expenditure related to furniture, benches, chairs, computers, projectors and others items.
The court said most of the expenses are not connected with the actual physical opening of schools.
It said expenses like rents, taxes, travelling, conveyance, insurance charges, remuneration of auditors, repair and maintenance of building and equipment are all expenses which will continue to be incurred by the schools irrespective of the physical shutdown.
The court further said schools in the city would be allowed to take the complete fee, including tuition fee and other charges, for academic year 2021-22. It said the (retrospective) amount to be paid by the students could be paid in six monthly instalments, starting from June 10.
“The amount payable by concerned students will be paid in six monthly instalments, wef 10.06.2021,” said Nath.
Several parents said they are worried that private schools may pressure them to pay fees.
Aprajita Gautam, president of the Delhi Parents Association, said, “The judgment is going to give a free hand to all private schools and will force thousands of students to discontinue their studies as they will not get a transfer certificate without paying the arrears. ”
SK Bhattacharya, president of the Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, assured that schools would show “consideration” to families which are in a “genuine” financial crisis.
“Parents can approach the school management with documents if they have a genuine crisis and some form of concession, waiver, or extension in paying fee will be arranged,” he said.