Unutilized Facilities, Reduce Fee by 15% for Online-Only Classes: Supreme Court to Schools
3rd May 2021, the Supreme Court in light of online classes and the expenses saved towards electricity charges, miscellaneous expenses, etc., by schools, ordered a deduction of 15% of the fee on account of unutilized facilities.
The Supreme Court, while granting the 15% deduction, set aside the orders of the Rajasthan High Court and the State Authorities reducing the school fee to 70% and 60% of the tuition fee for Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) students respectively.
The State Authorities (Director, Secondary Education) by orders dated 9th April 2020 and 7th July 2020, deferred the collection of school fee.
Aggrieved, the Managements of private unaided schools approached the Rajasthan High Court challenging the said orders of State Authorities. Accordingly, by an order dated 7th September 2020, the single judge bench reduced the school fee to 70% of tuition fees for the period from March 2020 and with an additional provision to be paid in three instalments.
The Director, Secondary Education, in compliance with the HC order, issued an order dated 28th October 2020 thereby reducing the fees to be charged for the academic session 2020-21 to 70% and 60% of tuition fee for CBSE and RBSE students respectively.
Thereafter, an appeal was filed before the Division Bench of the Rajasthan HC which was dismissed by order dated 18th December 2020. Aggrieved by the orders, appeals were filed before the Supreme Court.
As an immediate recourse, the Apex Court by an interim order dated 8th February 2021, allowed private unaided schools in Rajasthan to collect 100% fees for the academic year 2019-20 and 2020-21 through 6 monthly instalments. The fee amount notified for the academic year 2019-20 was set as the amount so payable.
The Supreme Court observed that the order of the Director, Secondary Education:
“has been issued in breach of the pre conditions specified in Section 18 of the Act of 2016. As a matter of law, the State Government had no power, whatsoever, to interdict the fee structure much less which has been finalised and fixed by the concerned functionaries/authorities under the Act of 2016”.
The Court added:
“…it is not open to the State Government to issue directions in respect of commercial or economic aspects of legitimate subsisting contracts/transactions between two private parties with which the State has no direct causal connection, in the guise of management of pandemic situation or to provide “mitigation to one” of the two private parties “at the cost of the other”
In light of the lockdown, the conduct of online classes and the expenses saved by the schools, the court held that the appellants:
“shall collect annual school fees from their students as fixed under the Act of 2016 for the academic year 2019-20, but by providing deduction of 15 per cent on that amount in lieu of unutilised facilities by the students during the relevant period of academic year 2020-21”. The amount would be payable in six monthly instalments before 5th August 2021.
Ankitha Subramanya | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL