The Supreme Court Monday directed 36,000 private unaided schools of Rajasthan to charge 15 per cent less annual fees from students in academic session 2020-21 and made clear that no students be barred from attending virtual or physical classes and their results be not held up due to non-payment of fees.
The top court upheld the Rajasthan High Court's judgment in rejecting the challenge to the validity of the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016 and the Rules framed under the law governing fixation of school fees by the government-mandated procedures.
A bench comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, in its 128-page judgement, made clear that the truncated fees for the academic year 2020-21 would be payable in six equal instalments by students or guardians.
"Undeniably, an unprecedented situation has had evolved on account of complete lockdown due to pandemic. It had a serious effect on the individuals, entrepreneurs, industries and the nation as a whole including in the matter of economy and purchasing capacity of one and all. "A large number of people have lost their jobs and livelihood as the aftermath of such economic upheaval. The parents who were under severe stress and even unable to manage their day to day affairs and the basic need of their family made fervent representation to the school Management(s) across the State," Justice Khanwilkar noted in the verdict.
"The appellants (schools) 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 verdict said.
The amount so payable by the concerned students be paid in six equal monthly instalments before August 05, 2021, it said, adding "it will be open to the schools to give further concession to their students.".
"The school Management shall not debar any student from attending either online classes or physical classes on account of non-payment of fees, arrears/outstanding fees including the instalments, referred to above, and shall not withhold the results of the examinations of any student on that account," it said.
The top court also said if any individual request is made for waiver of fees, then the school management should consider such a representation on "case to case basis sympathetically".
The bench said its judgement, however, will not affect the collection of fees for academic year 2021-22 by schools.
"The school Management shall not withhold the name of any student/candidate for the ensuing Board examinations for Classes X and XII on the ground of nonpayment of fee/arrears for the academic year 2020-21, if any, on obtaining undertaking of the concerned parents or students," it said.
The judgement came in two sets of appeal.
One set of pleas was directed against the validity of the state law and the rules on grounds including that they abridged fundamental right to practice profession and business guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution as they entered into the domain of the private schools by providing for the norms on the determination of school fees.
The second set of appeals challenged the orders passed by state authorities ordering deferment of collection of school fees including reduction of fees limited to 70 per cent of tuition fees by schools affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education and 60 per cent from the schools affiliated with Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education, in view of reduction of the syllabus by the respective boards due to aftermath of pandemic and lockdown from March 2020.
The Director, Secondary Education, on April 09, 2020, directed private schools to defer the collection of school fees for a period of three months. The relief was extended to the students by subsequent order by the government official.