Delhi High Court permits student to take exams who was debarred from school for non-payment of fees; Necessitates the balance between Rights of child and Rights of School

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a petition filed with a grievance that the name of the petitioner(‘child') has been struck off from the school due to non-payment of fees and even though the petitioner is a student of Class 10th, Mini Pushkarna, J., directed the respondent school to allow the petitioner child to take up the Practical Board Examinations of Class 10th commencing from 18-01-2023 and to further allow to attend any classes/ special classes that may be held by the school for imparting education to the children for appearing in Class 10th Board Examinations. The Court further directed the father of the petitioner to pay an amount of Rs.30,000/- to the school within a period of four weeks from today on account of the dues payable to the school towards the fees.

It is the case on behalf of the petitioner that the petitioner has been studying in the respondent 1 school since the Academic Year 2011-12 and has been paying fees regularly until the onset of COVID 19. But due to major financial losses the fees have been pending inspite regular intimations regarding the same.

A letter was sent to the father of the child mentioning that the name of the student has been struck down. The father of the child made a representation before Department of Education (DOE) and Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights after which the school permitted the petitioner herein to appear for the half yearly examinations and to attend the classes.

However, the name of the petitioner was again struck off and inspite of repeated requests, the school did not allow the petitioner to attend the classes and take exams commencing from 18-01-2023. Thus, the instant petition was filed.

The Court noted that a child cannot be made to suffer and not be allowed to attend classes or barred from taking examinations in the middle of an academic session on the ground of non-payment of fees. Therefore, not allowing a student to take examinations, especially the Board Examinations, would be an infringement of the rights of a child akin to the Right to Life as guaranteed under Article 21.

The Court however also noted that at the same time, a school that is run as a private unaided school cannot be forced to continue with a child who is unable to pay fees, having taken admission in the general quota and not under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) or Disadvantaged Group (DG) quota.

The Court remarked that the rights of a child to education must be balanced with the rights of the school under the DSER, 1973. If the petitioner is unable to pay the fees of the school, the petitioner certainly does not have a right to continue education in the school in question. However, the petitioner cannot be tormented in this manner in the middle of the academic session.

The Court deprecated the conduct of the petitioner in approaching the Court at the eleventh hour when the Practical Board Examinations are to commence a day after but permitted the petitioner to take the Class 10th Board Examinations and directed the petitioner to pay an amount of Rs.30,000/- to the school within a period of four weeks from the date of order on account of the dues payable to the school towards the fees.

[Master Prabhnoor Singh Virdi v. The Indian School, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 202, decided on 17-01-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Ms. Malka Asad, Ms. Sonal Singh, Advocates along with father of petitioner

Mr. Pramod Gupta, Ms. Sanya, Ms. Utkarsha, Advocates for R-1/School (M:8057045450) Ms. Mehak Nakra, ASC(Civil) GNCTD with Mr. Karan Kapur, Advocate for R-2/DOE

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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