SC asks schools to cut fees for online only classes

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For the last one year, ever since the pandemic hit our country, strict lockdown forced many things to remain closed till date. Schools were among the most affected section where the educational facilities were left with no option but switch over to virtual lessons. 

Amidst this, the running cost of the schools came down drastically but still many schools charged exorbitant fees even though physical facilities remain shut. 
Even now most of the schools are closed and still charging exorbitant fees for facilities which are not provided and utilised too, complained parents from across India. 
The Supreme Court on Monday, May 3, 2021 said that educational institutions should reduce their fees as their running costs have come down with various facilities provided on campus which are closed. 

A two member bench of Justice A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said the management of educational institutions should have sensitive approach to the problems faced by the  parents due to the pandemic and must take steps to provide succour to students and their parents in these difficult times. The bench further stated that forcing parents on payment for facilities not provided to students would amount to profits earned by the schools in a way. 

The bench further informed, “In law, the school management should not collect fees for activities and facilities which not provided to or availed by its students due to circumstances which are beyond their control. Also demanding fees in respect of overheads on such activities would be nothing short of indulging in profiteering and commercialisation of the education. It is a well-known fact and judicial notice can also be taken that due to complete lockdown, schools were not allowed to open for substantially long period during the academic year 2020-21. Resultantly, the school management must have saved overheads and recurring cost on various items such as petrol/diesel, electricity, maintenance cost, water charges, stationery charges, etc,” the bench said.

The school management should have a sensitive approach and take necessary remedial measures to mitigate the hardship suffered by students and their parents. In such situations, the school management must reschedule the payment of its fees and ensure that not a single student is left out or denied an opportunity to pursue education.

The parents, who approached the bench informed that the demand in reduction of fees have saved huge amount of money as the classes were held online and cost towards electricity, water, stationery charges and other miscellaneous charges which are required for physical running of the school. 

The bench further stated (providing relief both to the parents and students) that the school management should have rescheduled the fees and as per the regulating authority, should have passed a minimum 15 percent cut in the fees further resolving the issue once for all. 

The school management should collect fees fixed as per the Act of 2016 for academic year 2019-20 and by offering deduction of 15 percent cut on the amount in lieu of unutilised facilities by students in the period of academic year of 2020-21. 

The court has strictly said that the schools should not debar any student from attending neither online classes nor physical classes on account of non payment of arrears or any outstanding fees amount whatsoever. 

(News information sourced from Times Of India) 

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