Bombay HC directs private unaided schools to not take coercive action over fees

Following the tussle between private unaided schools and parents over payment of fees during the lockdown, the Bombay High Court (HC) divisional bench on Wednesday informed schools to act wisely in terms of charging fees amidst the financial crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The court bench stated that if any complaints are received by the state government against any coercive action taken by schools, the same may be brought to the notice of the court.

Private unaided school organisations and the state government communicating the plight of parents presented the matter in the court highlighting the need for funds for the survival of schools and measures for relaxations in payment of fees respectively. The court sought detailed data from the petitioner schools about the decision of fee hike exercised by the schools in the present and previous occasions.

The division bench responded stating, "Schools will act wisely and if any complaints are received by the government against any coercive action taken by schools, the same may be brought to the notice of the court."

Recently, on October 10, parents of students of 43 private unaided schools of Mumbai staged a 'thali bajao' nationwide protest demanding schools to reduce additional fees, as the latter's expenses have dropped since classes have moved online. Vikrant Joshi, a parent of a student in Class 6 in a private unaided school at Malad west said, "The school is charging unnecessary fees under the term library, laboratory and canteen fees when these services are not being provided to students as physical schools are currently shut."

On the other hand, private unaided school leaders said they need funds to survive while stating that certain additional charges can be waived off but parents should understand that online education has increased costs and will further increase expenditure when schools reopen with safety measures amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bharat Malik of the Private Unaided School Managements Association (PUSMA) said, "Parents should understand it is a matter of survival for the budget schools. We are bearing certain costs in online education and we will continue to bear additional costs once schools reopen physically as we will prioritise the safety of students."

The next hearing will be held on October 26, 2020, in the Bombay HC.

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