On Wednesday 8 July 2020, the Delhi High Court allowed private schools to bar children from attending online classes due to non-payment of tuition fees. Earlier, the Delhi Government restrained private schools from taking any action against those children who could not pay tuition fees during the lockdown.
The matter was heard by a single bench of Justice Jayant Nath, wherein, he held, “Where the parents are in default for payment of tuition fee for more than two months, the petitioner is free to issue appropriate notice to such parents to explain the reason for such default.” “In case the parents can convince/demonstrate to the petitioner about their financial problems/ financial incapacity to immediately pay the pending fees, the petitioner shall not take any further steps for the time being against such parents,”
the bench added, “where the parents are unable to satisfy/ demonstrate to the petitioner regarding their financial difficulties, the
petitioner is free to so communicate the same to the parents and decline to provide the ID and password for online education facility for the students.”
The petition, filed by Queen Mary School Northend, challenged the Delhi Government’s order dated 18 April 2020, which was issued by the Directorate of Education, wherein, private schools were precluded from charging any other fees from students, except tuition fees, till the lockdown ends. The petitioner sought permission to charge the actual expenditure that is being incurred by the school in conducting online classes, in the form of fees from the students. It also demanded issuance of a proper writ to quash the Delhi government’s circular. Learned counsel, on behalf of the petitioner, submitted that he had grievances regarding Clause (i), Clause (viii), and Clause (x) of the Circular dated 18 April 2020. The Circular stands ultra-vires to the Delhi School Education Act, he added. Clause (i) of the said Circular states that “no fee, except tuition fee, shall be charged from the parents during the lockdown period.”
Clause (viii) of the same states, “in no case, the ID and password shall be denied for getting online access of educational facilities/classes/materials to those students who are unable to pay the school fee due to financial crisis arising out of the closure of business activities.”
The petitioner contended that the School is facing a grave financial crisis, as about 40 percent of the students have not paid their tuition fees taking “undue advantage” of the said order. Previously, the disputed Circular was called into question in Naresh Kumar v. Director of Education &Anr.
before a division bench of the Delhi High Court. Declining to interfere with the government’s decision, the Court merely cautioned about “misuse” of such a provision. It held, “While implementing this provision, ensure that it is not misused, and extend its magnanimity only to persons who are, actually, in a state of the financial crisis, owing to the lockdown. It would be necessary for parents, seeking the benefit of this relief, to establish, to the satisfaction of the school, or the DoE, that, owing to the lockdown, they are, in fact, financially incapacitated from paying school fees.”
The Hon'ble Court, however, made provisions for the parents to put up their grievances regarding any decision/order of the petitioner school, wherein, the parents are permitted to approach appropriate authority of the Government of Delhi of NCT/respondent. [Queen Mary School Northend v. Director of Education; WP (C) No. 4011/2020]