Tuition fees of schools should not be exempted: HCUpdated: Apr 28, 2020 23:14 IST
The Delhi High Court has said that the tuition fees of the schools should not be exempted since education is being imparted online. As students continue to avail the benefits of classes, schools cannot be treated as “closed”.
In a judgment passed on April 24, a copy of which was uploaded on the official website on Tuesday, a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said that the expenditure incurred in disseminating education online may conceivably be greater than that involved in imparting classroom teaching.
It also said that providing online education is no child’s play and not allowing schools to charge to tuition fees would be “bordering on absurdity”.
The court’s decision came while it was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Naresh Kumar who had challenged the April 17 notification of the Delhi government wherein it had directed schools to not charge anything except the tuition fees in the wake of the lockdown. The plea had also sought that the fees for the lockdown period be waived off and parents not be coerced to pay the fees.
However, the court dismissed the petition and said, “While there can be no cavil, to the proposition that the requirement of payment of school fees would, necessarily, become enforceable only where the fees are payable, i.e., where the parents are physically in a position to pay the school fees, we cannot agree that, during the period of lockdown, or during the period when online education is being provided by the schools, and availed of, by students, tuition fees should be exempted.
“So long as schools are disseminating education online, they are certainly entitled to charge tuition fees. Rather, the expenditure involved in disseminating education online may, conceivably, be much greater than that involved in classroom teaching. Providing e-education is no child’s play, and involves the requirement of extensive infrastructural adjustments, including all incidental expenses in arranging access to online platforms, over which education could be provided, and in actually providing such education. To suggest that, having made all these arrangements, schools should not be permitted to charge tuition fees, would be bordering on absurdity [sic],” the bench said.
The petitioner had sought that the April 17 notification of the Delhi government be modified by granting complete exemption from payment of any fee, including tuition fee, at least for the period during which the lockdown continues to be in place.
However, rejecting his plea, the court said the Delhi government has correctly analysed the situation, by distinguishing between the expenditure incurred by schools “on co-curricular activities, sports activities, transportation, other development-related activities, etc.” and expenditure incurred on “salary, establishments and curricular activities”.
“The impugned order, however, does not exempt students from the requirement of payment of tuition fees, for the simple reason that tuition fees cover salary, establishments and curricular activities, the expenditure where on continues to be incurred by schools, even during the period of lockdown, and before they can resume normal work.
“Money does not grow on trees, and unaided schools, who received no funds from the Government, are entirely dependent on fees, to defray their daily expenses. We, therefore, find that, in allowing unaided schools to charge tuition fees, whereby expenses incurred on salary, establishments and curricular activities may be defrayed by them, the impugned Order dated April 17, 2020, strikes a wholesome balance, with which we are ill-inclined to interfere [sic],” the bench said.
The court also noted that painstaking efforts are being made by schools and teachers to provide education and hold classes vis online platforms. It said that the effort in physically teaching students, in a regular classroom, cannot even remotely be compared with the effort that the teacher has to expend to provide education online.
“It is a matter of common knowledge that, in doing so, the effort required to be put in, by the teacher, and the strain to which the teacher subjects herself, or himself, is tremendous, and the efforts of teachers – referred to, often, as the noblest among all noble professions – require to be commended in the highest terms. We unhesitatingly place, on record, our wholehearted appreciation, of the efforts of teachers, and schools, towards this end,” the court said.
The bench said that the idea of the petitioner was “fundamentally misconceived” and the city government has already taken care of the action to be taken against the schools indulging in any other misdemeanour.