Another PIL has been filedwhich challenge the unreasonabily high and arbitary levy of fees by private schools in the state as the Government of Uttar Pradesh Government is still not able to reply to a query put forward by Allahabad High Court regarding the regulation of fees during the lockdown.
The members of the Parents Association has filed the PIL after the parents as well as children are being harrased by the private schools especially through SMS and Whatsapp messages to pay the fees for the session 2020-2021, at time when the schools were closed and no services were provided due to the nationwide lockdown.
The Advocates Shashwat Anand and Ankur Azad who have filed the petition on behalf the parents pointed out that the UP Self-finanacial Independent Schools (Fee Registration) Act, which was enacted in 2018 was put into practice to regulate the conduct of Private unaided schools and to put chains on unreaslnable demands of fees by private institutions.
Section 8 of the above act deals with the Constitution of " District Fee Regulatory Committee ". In order to deal with the issues like the fee charged by private schoolsand to hear complaints of students, parents, guardians is regulated by the committee. But in Uttar Pradesh no such committee is formed till date. Moreover, section 4(3) of the act empowers the state Government to regulate the fees of all the students who are studying in private schools for each acacdemic year for the sake of public interest, in exceptional conditions or situations arising unexpectedly like acts of God, Epidemics etc. This section was added to the act on June 17, 2020 by way of an ordinance. But the state Government has not provided the support to the parents in this time if hardships and distress. The plea claims that there is rarely any school in Moradabad District which is not harassing the parents as well as childern for fees, for the months when the lockdown was imposed through out the country.
The petitioners allege that if the students are not able to pay the fee, the schools are not allowing them to attend the online classes, nor the childern are alllowed to sit in the examination neither the childern are promoted to the higher standards. Even in some cases the schools are removing the names of such students from the school records.
The plea states that for the sake of extracting illegal and unreasonably high fee from the children, and from their parents the private schools have not even separately specified the tuition fees and are taking the fees of all the heads as one head. By means of this, the schools are collecting the unreasonabily high and illegal school feesand are voilating the directions of the Government and blatant voilations of the mandate of the 2018 Act, which is not only ollegal, arbitrary and unethical, but also lacking the human qualities of compassion and mercy on part of the private schools. Additionally, the petitioners claimed that the whole burdon of finance for the "Online Tuition" has also been put on the parents which includes the cost of technological infrastructure, expenses of Internet, connection, Electricity bills etc.
In the case of Sulekha and ors v State of UP and ors, earlier this year this issue assumed importance, when the Cheif Justice led Bench of the High Court has asked the UP Government about the principle it shall follow for the regulation of fees under the UP self- financed Independent schools (Fee Regulation) Act 2018.This case probably is to be listed on 29th April 2021.
The issue may be read in the light of the observations made by the apex Court in T. M. A Pai Foundation v State of Karnataka. In this case, it was held that in setting up a reasonable fee structure, the element of unfair profit is not as yet accepted in Indian conditions. The fee structure should of that kind which takes into consideration the need to generate funds, which should be used for the improvement and growth of educational institution, the improvement of education in that institution and to provide necessary facilities for the benefit of students.