Maharashtra Government to take action against schools violating MEIR Act

In response to the direction of the Bombay High Court (HC) which allowed schools that have declared the fees for the academic year 2020-21 after duly following the process of Fee Regulating Authority (FRA) before May 8, 2020 to continue to charge 2020-21 fees, parents of students studying in private-unaided schools have demanded the state to form a committee to look into increased fees and grant relief. The court has also directed the state to address complaints of parents or take suo moto action against schools that have violated the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011.

On Monday, the Bombay HC passed an order on the matter of fee hike initiated by private-unaided schools as parents had opposed stating they are unable to pay increased fees due to financial constraints on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. The court said, "The Government Resolution (GR) dated May 8, 2020 is only prospective in nature and cannot apply to schools which have already fixed or declared their fee for the academic year 2020-2021 where such fees are duly accepted in terms of the MEIR 2011 Act as amended and/or has been acted upon before the GR dated May 8, 2020."

Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education (FFE), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), said, "The court order has not provided any relief to parents. We had demanded 50 per cent reduction in school fees for the academic year 2020-21 as schools have shifted to online education where facilities such as libraries, canteens, playgrounds, laboratories, and bus services are not being used."

Supriya Kandavle, a parent, said, "The court has allowed schools that fixed their fees for 2020-21 before May 8, 2020, to continue to charge the same. But most parents have suffered financial losses post-May throughout the course of the lockdown. While most schools already fixed their fees before May 8. The state should form a committee to grant relief for parents who are affected financially."

In an attempt to help students, the court said, "In the event of a complaint being received by the state or suo motu on receipt of information in relation to a particular educational institution, then in such an event the institution or the management shall not debar any student from attending either online classes or physical classes or attending the examinations on account of non-payment of only the increased component of fees for 2020-2021. The result shall not be withheld for non-payment of the increased component. However, this does not entitle any parent to claim that the fees are not payable."

The Bombay HC order was passed as the Maharashtra government had released a government resolution (GR) on May 8, 2020 stating schools should withhold all fee hikes for the current academic year 2020-21 and allow parents to pay fees in instalments. The GR was then stayed by the Bombay High Court (HC) on June 26, 2020 after several organisations of private school owners filed a petition against it. Now, the Bombay HC vacated the stay on the GR after almost eight months.

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