Schools should not insist parents to pay fees: Maha govt justifies decision to disallow hike in school fees

The nation-wide lockdown has brought the economy to a standstill and many have lost their source of livelihood and thus, the state has instructed all schools not to insist parents to pay the fees or hike the same, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court.

The government made the submission in a bid to justify its May 8 GR, by which schools across the state were ordered not to hike school fees for the academic year 2020-2021.

Notably, a bench led by Justice Ujjal Bhuyan has temporarily stayed the GR, by which the schools have been also asked to allow parents to pay the pending fees (for 2019-2020) either in monthly or quarterly installments.

The bench while staying the GR's operation, has ordered the government to file a detailed affidavit justifying the rationale behind issuing such a directive to all schools.

As primary submissions, the state through additional government pleader Manish Pabale submitted a 12-page note, justifying its decision.

"The state government as guardian of the public is entitled to take measures as are required to reduce the impact caused by the disaster. Admittedly, the present disaster has great economic effect on the lives of the people. Due to the compulsory lockdown conditions and social distancing norms, the economy has come to a standstill," the note reads.

According to Pabale, these are the primary submissions which would also be included in the detailed affidavit.

The public in general is facing problem of regular income and losing their means of livelihood, the note points out, adding that the economic adversity is affecting majority of the population. "In such a situation, the economic assistance either by providing income source or reducing the expenditure is one of the measures which the government can take for assisting the victims of disaster (Pandemic)," the note reads.

Further, the state has claimed to have tried to secure the interest of students and their parents by taking a "reasonable stand" in the matter of payment of fees.

"By distributing fees in monthly schedule the financial burden can be spread over. Similarly by keeping the fees stable, the tension of increasing expenses can be avoided. The government is trying to ensure that the general public is getting some economic assurances in terms of reduction of expenses," the education department has said in the note.

Referring to the provisions of the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fees) Act, 2011, the note points that the object behind this law is important as it has been enacted primarily for protecting the interest of the students and for preventing profiteering in the field of education by private unaided educational institutions.

"After providing for detailed framework for deciding fees in respect of private unaided educational institutions, this act clearly gives residuary powers to the state government to give necessary directions to the educational institutions for achieving the objects of the Act. The present GR, therefore, rightly uses the power provided in this law," the note pointed out.

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