The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday (September 8, 2020) expressed hope that parents should desist from agitations in front of school gates while hearing a plea seeking fee waiver during the COVID pandemic and said the institutions could seek police action if such demonstrations broke out.
“It is hoped that the parents desist from carrying out any agitation at the school gates, particularly since the matter is being considered by the court. Any report of further agitation at the school gates may be reported by the relevant schools for appropriate police action,” the bench of Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Mousumi Bhattacharya said. The bench, while hearing a PIL, proposed that the 145 schools involved in the case set up committees comprising teacher and guardian representatives to identify the parents who were genuinely unable to pay the fees because of financial trouble during the pandemic. “It will be open to all schools to consider such instances on a case-to-case basis without there being any generic direction in such regard. However, as far as the extent of (fee) reduction allowable, there have to be voluntary suggestions made by the individual committees of each school which is proposed to be set up by the order that may be passed when the matter is taken up next,” the order said.
“It is heartening to note that almost without exception schools which have participated in today’s hearing have said that they have entertained, on a case-to-case basis, appeals by the parents of the students who have been financially hit.” The bench said the six CNI schools which had moved the Supreme Court against the high court order seeking income and expenditure details of the schools would have to apply to the high court by September 14 for recall/modification of its order. The apex court had asked the schools to move the high court for the recall/modification of the order. The six schools are seeking recall/modification because minority schools enjoy financial autonomy. Article 30 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom to minority schools, a CNI official said. Social activist Vineet Ruia had moved a PIL in the high court alleging that many private schools were not allowing students to attend online classes or take online exams for failing to pay fees. The petition had also alleged that the school authorities had been demanding charges on various heads though they had not provided those services during the pandemic. Agitations by parents have been common during the pandemic. They have been demanding reduction of tuition fees and waiver of fees under heads like sports, computer, and library — the facilities students had not been availing of as the schools are shut. The schools, which take no aid from the government, have said they would find it difficult to pay wages and maintain infrastructure if parents do not pay. The high court on Tuesday (September 8, 2020) said the two-member committee it had constituted to go into the schools’ income and expenditure “indicates several fallacies in the accounts submitted by the schools”. In a preliminary report, the panel has said collecting fees on 30 heads such as “art and craft expenses”, “textbook charges”, “band charges” and “entertainment expenses” during this period was “unjustified”. The court said the heads referred to in the report should be addressed and individual schools should justify the amount they have claimed to have spent under various heads.