On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered its Judgment on the plea of Private Unaided Schools of Rajasthan with respect to charging annual school fees.
The Court has allowed the private unaided schools to charge fee as fixed under the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act 2016, for the academic year 2019-20.
The Judgment has been delivered by the Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari in the case Indian School, Jodhpur Vs. State Of Rajasthan and Others.
But the Court has also provided that the schools shall provide a deduction of 15% on that amount in lieu of unutilised facilities by the students during the relevant academic year 2020-21.
A bunch of Pleas were filed before the Supreme Court by Private Schools challenging the decision of the Government directing to defer the collection of school and reducing the fee to 70% of tuition fees. The High Court had upheld the validity of such Government Orders.
The Court has issued following directions:
- The School Management of the concerned private unaided school shall collect annual school fees from their students as fixed under the Act of 2016 for the academic year 201920, 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 202021.
- The amount so payable by the concerned students will be paid in six equal monthly instalments before 05.08.2021 as noted in our order dated 08.02.2021.
- Regardless of the above, it will be open to the appellants (concerned schools) to give further concession to their students or to evolve a different pattern for giving concession over and above those noted in clauses (i) and (ii) above.
- The school Management shall not debar any student from attending either online classes or physical classes on account of nonpayment 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.
- If any individual request is made by the parent/ward finding it difficult to remit annual fees for the academic year 2020-21 in the above terms, the school Management to consider such representation on case to case basis sympathetically
- The above arrangement will not affect the collection of fees for the academic year 2021-22, as is payable by the students of the concerned school as and when it becomes due and payable.
- 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 202021, if any, on obtaining undertaking of the concerned parents/students.
Directions in conflict with the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016
The Bench found that the directions issued by the Government, which was challenged before the High Court , is in violation of the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016, as there is no mechanism under the Act to modify the school fees once finalised in the manner provided by the Act of 2016. The Court found that the direction of the Government is in conflict with the scheme of finalisation of fee structure under the Act of 2016 and 95 also the binding effect thereof for the specified period of three academic years on all concerned.
Article 162 cannot be invoked
Further the Court held that even the State Government cannot invoke Article 162 on this issue. It has been observed that determination of school fee structure including reduction of fixed school fee is the exclusive domain of the school Management , it is not open to the Legislature to make a law on that subject except to provide statutory mechanism to regulate fees for ensuring that it does not result in commercialization and profiteering by the schools
No power under Disaster Management Act in respect of Schools Fee Structure due to Pandemic.
The Court also examined the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and held that there is no provision in the Act of 2005 which allows interdicting the school fee structure fixed under the Act of 2016. The DMA Act of 2005 is not a panacea for all difficulties much less not concerning disaster management
Schools Cannot Collect Fees with respect to facilities not availed by Students
The Supreme Court has observed that the School Managements are expected to be responsive and alive to current situation and therefore necessary remedial measures should be taken to mitigate the hardship of students and parents. The Schools should reschedule the fee payment in such a manner that no student is denied Right to Education.
Considering the fact that during the long lockdown period the Schools have saved the recurring costs such as bus, electricity, water charges etc, the Court assumed on a higher side that at least 15 per cent of the annual school fees would be towards overheads/expenses saved by the school Management.
Title: Indian School, Jodhpur Vs. State Of Rajasthan [CA 1724 OF 2021]
Coram: Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari
Case No. Civil Appeal: 1724 of 2021
Date of Judgment: 03.05.2021