THE Uttarakhand High Court on May 12 directed that the children, who did not have access to the online course, couldn’t be asked to pay the tuition fee. It also added, that since payment of tuition fee by students was voluntary, none of the private schools should send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents calling upon them to pay the tuition fees.
HC also ordered that the District Education Officer and the Block Development Officer, in each district, to be the Nodal Officers to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay tuition fees by private schools.
The court was hearing a petition alleging that the private schools were coercing parents to pay tuition fees through the Government Order made payment of tuition fees by parents voluntary; some of these schools claimed to conduct online classes even for Upper Kindergarten students (i.e. children even below Class 1); this ruse had been adopted only to collect tuition fees from gullible parents; e-mails.
Further, the petitioner alleged that the WhatsApp messages were being sent by these schools calling upon parents to pay tuition fees of their children, though the Government Order required payment of fees to be voluntary.
A division bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe said: “While it is no doubt true, as contended by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the private unaided educational institutions, that these schools are required to incur huge expenditure towards payment of salaries to their teachers and staff, establishment charges, rent for buildings, vehicle maintenance, ESI, EPF to its employees, etc., the current situation, where a lockdown has been imposed throughout the country because of the COVID19 Pandemic, is unprecedented”.
The bench added, “the object of the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 is to ease the burden on parents, who do not even have the means to earn their livelihood in this period of crisis, in being required to pay the huge fees which these private institutions charge”.
“…. The Government Order dated 02.05.2020 binds these private schools and, as long as it continues to remain in force, they are bound to adhere to the conditions stipulated therein”, the court said.
In order to ensure proper and effective implementation of the Government Order, the High Court issued the following directions:
- The State Government shall appoint the District Education Officer and the Block Development Officer, in each district, to be the Nodal Officers to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay tuition fees by private schools.
- Wide publicity shall be given in the media informing the public at large, in the State, that they can address their grievance in this regard to the Nodal Officers.
- On receipt of any such complaints, the concerned Nodal Officers shall take prompt action against the erring educational institutions who are coercing parents, to pay the tuition fees of their children, though the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 expressly stipulates that payment of tuition fees is voluntary.
- Since the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 enables only those institutions which run online classes to collect tuition fees, it is only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, who would be required to pay the tuition fee, if they choose to do so.
- Children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee.
- It does appear that subtle means are being adopted by these private institutions to force parents to pay the tuition fees. Since payment of tuition fee by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents calling upon them to pay the tuition fees.
- The Secretary, School Education, shall call for information from all the District Education Officers regarding the number of private schools, in their respective districts, which offer online courses, and the number of students who have access to such online courses. Information shall be obtained from each of these private schools as to whether tuition fees is being collected even from those students who have no access to the online course offered by the schools, and whether these schools have collected tuition fees from such students also. This information shall not only be collected from students of Class 1 to Class 10, but also with regards children who are undergoing their Upper Kindergarten. The Secretary, School Education, shall submit a detailed report in this regard to this Court by the next date of hearing
- The Secretary, School Education, shall also furnish information regarding online classes being conducted by private schools for Upper Kindergarten students. He shall consider the wisdom in conducting such online programmes for these children in Upper Kindergarten, examine whether this is just a ruse to collect tuition fee from them, and issue appropriate directions, to all such private schools, in this regard as he considers appropriate
HC has listed the matter for May 26 by which date the Secretary, School Education shall submit his report to the court with regard to directions issued by it.
Read the Order here: