TED NewsDesk, Kolkata: Considering the lockdown and closure of schools due to COVID-19, the Calcutta High Court directed private schools across the state to reduce academic fees at least by 20 per cent. Moreover, it warned educational institutions not to ask for non-mandatory costs for unveiled facilities. The HC passed the order to 145 private schools across the city on Tuesday. The decision followed a plea filed by the guardians of the students studying in these 145 schools. The parents requested the Court to grant some relaxation in fees, in the view of home-based education amid the lockdown.
The state High Court ordered these 145 schools to reduce fee by 20 per cent across the board until the time when the classes shift back to traditional mode. It said that the fee from April till the month following the reopening month would have a relaxation of minimum 20 per cent. Besides, it restricted the institutions from hiking fees for the session 2020-21.
The two-judge bench constituted Justices Sanjib Banerjee along with Moushumi Bhattacharya dismissed the permission for charging unnecessary amount for facilities like additional charges for craft, laboratory, sporting facilities or extracurricular activities or the ones not used.
“There are many parents who are diverting a substantial part of their disposable resources, at a great personal sacrifice, to get their children admitted to high-end schools with superior educational infrastructure and amenities,” Justice Bhattacharya outlined in the order.
He said that in these times of degrading economic conditions, the reduction of fees might provide financial assistance to the parents.
The court gave its consent for the schools to charge sessions fees periodically. However, the payable amount shall not exceed 80 per cent of the amount charged in the year 2019-20. The relaxation of 20 per cent in the tuition fees would depend on the tuition fees for the corresponding months of the previous academic session. Besides, the parents will not receive a refund once they cancel or withdraw the admission.
“However, to the extent fees have already been paid which are more than the directions contained therein, suitable adjustments will be made over the remaining months of the financial year unless the parents agree in writing otherwise,” instructed the court.
The division bench allowed a maximum of 5 per cent of surplus. It said that the institutions would have to pass on the extra amount either as a means of particular concession or general concession. It will apply only to specific cases of extreme situations.
“If any school makes a loss as a consequence of following these directions, such loss can be made up in the course of the next two financial years, 2021-22 and 2022-23, if normal physical functioning resumes by March 31, 2021,” the court added.
Comprehending the COVID situation and its effect on financial factors, the court said that the parents would have the option to inform in writing to the schools regarding further reduction or waiver or exemption or delayed or instalment payments. An expenditure statement of those parents verified by some authentic auditor, however, should accompany the application as a justification to their request.
Following the announcement of relaxation, the court gave liberty to the schools to detain students who fail to submit entire amount for fees or to apply for ease or waive off as per this order. It added that the schools should securely adopt this step as the final solution only if all the other ways fail to work. It directed each school to decide their amount for monthly fees and additional charges like session fees, etc., for the 2020-21 session. The first petitioner in the issue would develop a website where the schools will have to put up the fee structure by October 31, 2020.
The parents in their petition raised their concerns regarding the fees; thus, requesting the HC to cease schools from asking regular fees even after the shift in the teaching-learning platform since April. They also informed the inadequacy of resources in these schools for the commencement of online classes. As per the Court, the writ petition will stay pending until the transition of schooling mode form online to offline following the mandatory instructions. The bench scheduled the next hearing on December 7, 2020, concerning the improvement in the implementation of protocols contained in the order.