The Delhi High Court has refused to interfere with a petition seeking directions to private schools in the national capital to suspend fees charged under various heads, other than the tuition fee, for the month of April, May and June on account of COVID-19 pandemic, observing that the authorities have taken cognizance of the issue and that the matter comes in the policy domain.
A bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh, while hearing a petition filed by Rajat Vats through video-conferencing on Monday, said, “At this stage, the petitioner submits that some schools are demanding a consolidated fee without distinguishing the various heads i.e., tuition fee, co-curricular activities fee etc. If there is any specific complaint against any particular school, the parents concerned would be entitled to bring the same to the notice of the Directorate of Education, which shall take steps in accordance with the law.”
“Insofar as the tuition fee is concerned, the charging of the same would be justified in view of the fact that almost all the schools are conducting online classes and the teachers are discharging their functions by imparting course work over online platforms, checking project work online, correcting papers wherein students have already given examinations, preparing questions on lessons taught and supervising students to complete the work given etc. There is also a burden on the schools to pay their staff during these months,” it added.
Vats submitted that during the lockdown period, students of private schools in Delhi ought not to be made to pay the transport charges, the fee for extra-curricular activities and other fees which are charged by schools since they are not functioning.
Lawyer Ramesh Singh, appearing for the Delhi government, told the court that the government is fully conscious of the issues raised by the petitioner and the Directorate of Education has already passed an order on April 17, 2020, to the effect that no fees except tuition fee be charged.Singh said that various directions issued in the said order are relied upon to submit that the government is fully conscious of such students who may have financial difficulties and course material and classes have been made available even to them.
The court observed that the authorities have already barred the charging of any fees except tuition fees and those students who are unable to pay school fee due to financial crisis, course-work and other material is being made available to them. Such students are also permitted to avail of online classes.
The High Court said that the schools cannot deny access to online classes and other educational facilities due to the non-payment of fees and added that schools are also not permitted to charge any new head of fees.