In a major relief to private schools of the state, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday i.e. 24th August,2020, allowed the private schools to charge monthly tuition fees and also enforce its collection without charging any fine or late fees charges. A division bench comprising of Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Jyotsna Rewal Dua, while passing judgments on two petitions, one filed by Independent Schools Association ( a body of private schools) – seeking quashing of the notification issued by the Director, Higher Education, Himachal Pradesh, restraining the private schools to charge a fee and other filed by a parent (Deepak Gupta) against Lawrence School Sanawar, seeking fee waiver for the sessions 2020-21 and refund of the already received fees by the school excluding tuition fees. The court also directed the state to examine the issue of the difference between residential/non-residential/partially residential school vis-a-vis applicability of any direction which will be issued by the state.
While passing these directions the court observed that “The Additional Advocate General could not justify as to why even the tuition fee has not been permitted to be collected by the private schools. In case, private schools cannot authoritatively charge even the ‘tuition fee’ then it is beyond comprehension as to how they will pay the monthly salary to their staff. It cannot be assumed that private schools have an unending supply of reserve funds with them.” The court further directed the state government to revisit and re-examine all the conditions imposed by it upon private schools in its communication issued on May 27, 2020, whereby it had directed the privately managed schools not to charge any fee from students except tuition fee. It further directed the government to take a fresh decision within a period of four weeks. The court has also given liberty to the schools and other stakeholders to submit their representations on the issues involved to the Director Education within a period of one week.
It further observed that “we cannot lose sight of the fact that by and large wards of affluent/reasonably well-off families study in the private schools. Private schools are sought after because of the status and reputation they enjoy. These schools may have been closed temporarily but are required to maintain their already created infrastructure and instructional facilities. Their recognition and affiliation also depend upon compliance with these aspects. These schools are not financially aided by the state government”. The Court while revisiting the notification dated 27.5.2020 has cleared that the state shall examine the feasibility of allowing the school to enforce the attendance of their staff on the school premises to impart good quality education.