Rajasthan High Court: Sanjeev Prakash Sharma, J., partly allowed a writ petition filed by the Society of Catholic Education Institutions in Rajasthan and Progressive Schools Association, Nisa Education, School Shiksha Pariwar Sanstha and D.G.J. Educational Society challenging the orders passed by the State Government which had deferred the collection of fees from students indefinitely till the State Government takes any decision for the opening of the schools further, it had directed that the names of students should not be struck off for non-payment of fees.

The counsel for the petitioners contended that there had already been a deferment of fees for a long period of almost six months and the schools required to maintain the infrastructures and also pay salary to its staff, which includes non-teaching and teaching staff and are facing great hardship and therefore, by interim arrangement at least tuition fees be allowed to be collected from students as per the provisions of the Rajasthan Non-Government Educational Institutions Act, 1989 and the Rules framed therein, it is binding for the institution(s) to pay regular salary to its staff even during the lock-down period. Further, as far as the teaching process was concerned, the same was continuing in terms of the directions issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education by adopting entire process and for the purpose of teaching by virtual methods, the members of the petitioner association had to incur additional expenditure in procuring additional gadgets for implementation of virtual classes. It was submitted that all the students were taking benefit out of the online classes being run by the schools and it cannot be said that the students were not being provided education for their classes during this pandemic.

The Court observed that at the interim stage, a balance was required to be struck between the financial difficulty of the school management relating to release of the salary of the staff and minimum upkeep of school on one side and the financial pressure, which has come on the parents due to the pandemic and lock-down as noticed above. The Court while relying on various judgments passed by the High Courts of Gujarat, Punjab & Haryana and Delhi, held that prima facie, members of the petitioner association cannot be deprived of receiving the tuition fees for the students, who continued to remain on their rolls. However, this Court noticed that total infrastructure cost, which the school may incur for the regular studies during normal days, had been definitely reduced day to day schools are not opening thus, directing the school authorities to allow the students to continue their studies online and allow them to deposit 70% of the tuition fees element in three installments from the total fees being charged for the year. It was made clear that on non-payment of the said fees, the student(s) may not be allowed to join online classes, but shall not be expelled from the school.[Society of Catholic Education Institutions in Rajasthan v. State of Rajasthan, 2020 SCC OnLine Raj 1299, decided on 07-09-2020]

*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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