Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The division bench of AM Khanwilkar* and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has issued “general uniform direction” of deduction of 15 per cent of the annual school fees for the academic year 2020-2021 in lieu of unutilised facilities/activities and not on the basis of actual data school-wise.

The said direction was issued in order to obviate avoidable litigation by over 36,000 schools and to give finality to the issue of determination and collection of school fees for the academic year 2020¬21, as a one-time measure.

On 09.04.2020, an order was issued by the Director, Secondary Education, in the wake of COVID¬19 pandemic, directing the private schools recognised by the Primary and Secondary Education Departments to defer collection of school fees for a period of three months.

Before expiry of the period noted in the aforementioned order, the Director, Secondary Education issued another order on 07.07.2020 which read as

“The fee chargeable by non¬government schools from the students/guardians after 15th March, the applicable fees at present   and   payment   of   advance   fee   was   deferred   for   3 months, as per the direction of the State Government the said deferment is extended till the reopening of the schools. In case of non-deposition  of fees  during the  said  period, name of such student will not be struck off from the rolls of the school.”

On 07.09.2020, Rajasthan High Court directed the school Authorities to allow the students to continue their studies online and also to deposit only 70 per cent of the tuition fees element from the total fees chargeable for the period from March 2020 in three instalments.

On 28.10.2020, the Director of Secondary Education , Rajasthan issued an order stating that the   schools which were/which are imparting online teaching then capacity building fees can be charged from such students which will be 60% of the tuition fees.

The Supreme Court noticed that the Director, Secondary Education had no authority whatsoever to issue direction in respect of fee structure determined under the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016 including to reduce the same for the academic year 2020¬21 in respect of private unaided schools. However, this does not give licence to the School Management to be rigid and not be sensitive about aftermath of pandemic.

“Undeniably, an unprecedented situation has had evolved on account of complete lockdown due to pandemic. It had serious effect on the individuals, entrepreneurs, industries and the nation as a whole including in the matter of economy and purchasing capacity of one and all. A large number of people have lost their jobs and livelihood as aftermath of such economic upheaval. The parents who were under severe stress and even unable to manage their day¬to-day affairs and the basic need of their family made fervent representation to the school Management(s) across the State.” 

The Court explained that, in law, the school Management cannot be heard to collect fees in respect of activities and facilities which are, in fact, not provided to or availed by its students due to circumstances beyond their control. Demanding fees even in respect of overheads on such activities would be nothing short of indulging in profiteering and commercialisation.

Further, due to complete lockdown the schools were not allowed to open for substantially long period during the academic year 2020-21. Resultantly, the school Management must have saved   overheads and recurring cost on various items such as petrol/diesel, electricity, maintenance cost, water charges, stationery charges, etc.

“Indeed, overheads and operational cost so saved would be nothing, but an amount undeservedly earned by the school without offering such facilities to the students during the relevant period.  Being fee, the principle of quid pro quo must come into play.”

However, no accurate (factual) empirical data has been furnished by either side about the extent to which such saving has been or could have been made or benefit derived by the school Management.     The Court, hence, assumed that the school Management(s) must have saved around 15 per cent of the annual school fees fixed by the school/adjudicated by the Statutory Regulatory Authorities for the relevant period.

“… we would assume that at least 15 per cent of the annual school fees would be towards overheads/expenses saved by the school Management. Arguendo, this assumption is on the higher side than the actual savings by the school Management of private unaided schools, yet we are inclined to fix that percentage because the educational institutions are engaged in doing charitable activity of imparting and spreading education and not make money. That they must willingly and proactively do. Hence, collection of commensurate amount (15 per cent of the annual school fees for academic year 2020¬2021), would be a case of profiteering and commercialisation by the school Management.”

DIRECTIONS

(i) The school Management of the concerned private unaided school shall collect annual school fees from their students as fixed under the Act of 2016 for the academic year 2019-20, but by providing deduction of 15 per cent on that amount in lieu of unutilised facilities by the students during the relevant period of academic year 2020¬21.

(ii) The amount so payable by the concerned students be paid in six equal monthly instalments before 05.08.2021.

(iii) Regardless of the above, it will be open to the concerned School Managements to give further concession to their students or to evolve a different pattern for giving concession over and above those noted in clauses (i) and (ii) above.

(iv) The school Management shall not debar any student from attending either online classes or physical classes on account of non¬payment of fees, arrears/outstanding   fees   including   the   installments, referred to above, and shall not withhold the results of the examinations of any student on that account.

(v) If any individual request is made by the parent/ward finding it difficult to remit annual fees for the academic year 2020¬21 in the above terms, the school Management to consider such representation on case¬to¬case basis sympathetically.

(vi) The above arrangement will not affect collection of fees for the academic year 2021-22, as is payable by the students of the concerned school as and when it becomes due and payable.

(vii) The school Management shall not withhold the name of any student/candidate for the ensuing Board examinations for Classes X and XII on the ground of non-payment   of   fee/arrears   for   the   academic year 2020-21, if any, on obtaining undertaking of the concerned parents/students.

[Indian School, Jodhpur v. State of Rajasthan, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 359, decided on 03.05.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice AM Khanwilkar 

Know Thy Judge| Justice AM Khanwilkar

For appellants: Senior Advocate Pallav Shishodia, Shyam Divan,  Puneet Jain and Romy Chacko

For State of Rajasthan: Senior Advocates Dr. Manish Singhvi and Devadatt Kamat

Mr. Sunil Samdaria, in­person

Case BriefsHigh CourtsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

It’s the last day of 2020, and here we are with the 20 most-read Case Briefs of the SCC Online Blog in the Year 2020.

The following lists consist of the most-loved Case Briefs by SCC Blog Readers.

[Bombay High Court]

Bom HC | State Govt. declares ATMA, XAT, MAT, GMAT entrance tests not to be valid eligibility for MBA/MMS courses, instead only MS-CET, CMAT and CET to be valid: Read HC’s decision on Government Circular

[Anmol Jagdish Baviskar v. Minister, Higher and Technical Education Department Mumbai; 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 3853, decided on 11-12-2020]


[National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission]

If a person carries out trading in shares on an occasional basis by opening a Demat Account, will that person come under the ambit of Consumer? Read NCDRC’s opinion

[Vaman Nagesh Upaskar v. India Infoline Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 469, decided on 28-10-2020]


[Bombay High Court]

Bom HC | If the wife is earning something for livelihood, can the same be a ground to refuse alimony under S. 24 of Hindu Marriage Act? Read Court’s ruling reiterating SC’s decision

[Arpana Vijay Manore v. Dr Vijay Tukaram Manore, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 3925, decided on 09-12-2020]


[Delhi High Court]

Del HC | Schools free to decline Online Education Facility to students whose parents fail to pay tuition fees

[Queen Mary School Northend v. Director of Education, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 736 , decided on 08-07-2020]


[Allahabad High Court]

All HC | Offences under Ss. 498-A IPC and 3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act compounded in light of settlement between parties

[Deena Nath v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1057, decided on 23-09-2020]


[Supreme Court]

Maintenance of wife|Husband doesn’t have to pay maintenance in each of the proceedings under different Maintenance laws [Explainer on Supreme Court guidelines]

[Rajnesh v. Neha,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 903, decided on 04.11.2020]


[Kerala High Court]

Ker HC | If a particular income is not taxable under Income Tax Act, it cannot be taxed on basis of estoppel or any other equitable doctrine; Court reiterates principles for recovery under Income Tax Act

[Uniroyal Marine Exports v. CCE,  2020 SCC OnLine Ker 5175, decided on 17-11-2020]


[Allahabad High Court]

[Maintenance to Muslim wife] All HC | “S. 125 CrPC perhaps one of the most secular enactment ever made in this country”: HC while upholding maintenance awarded to a divorced Muslim wife

[Jubair Ahmad v. Ishrat Bano, 2019 SCC OnLine All 4065, decided on 18-10-2019]


[Kerala High Court]

Ker HC | No blanket order should be passed under S. 438 CrPC to prevent accused from being arrested when there is no crime registered against him; Court quashes order granting anticipatory bail

[State of Kerala v. Ansar M.C.,  2020 SCC OnLine Ker 4569, decided on 21-10-2020]


[Supreme Court]

SC clarifies law on admissibility of electronic evidence without certificate under Section 65B of Evidence Act, 1872

[Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 571, decided on 14.07.2020]


[Allahabad High Court]

All HC | Can a complaint filed in light of S. 138 NI Act be dismissed on ground of one day delay? Read Court’s reasoned order

[Pankaj Sharma v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1339, decided on 22-09-2020]


[Chhattisgarh High Court]

Chh HC | Can an application for anticipatory bail under S. 438 CrPC be filed directly before the High Court? || Thorough Analysis

[Hare Ram Sharma v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 639, decided on 18-11-2020]


[Bombay High Court]

[S. 125 CrPC] Bom HC | Wife cannot be denied maintenance on ground of having a source of income

[Sanjay Damodar Kale v. Kalyani Sanjay Kale, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 694, decided on 26-05-2020]


[Calcutta High Court]

Cal HC | Rejection of complaint under S. 156(3) CrPC by Magistrate without taking cognizance under S. 190(1)(a) is an error in law; correct approach explained

[Pranati v. State of W.B., 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 132, decided on 21-01-2020]


[Delhi High Court]

Del HC | If interim maintenance by wife has already been secured under Domestic Violence Act, will application under S. 125 CrPC be maintainable? Court answers

[Rani v. Dinesh, Crl. Rev. P. 1091 of 2019 and Crl. M.A 13677 of 2020, decided on 02-12-2020]


[Himachal Pradesh High Court]

HP HC | Remedy under S. 125 CrPC and S. 12 of DV Act, 2005 are distinct and different; Law does not prohibit wife to proceed under both of the said statutory provisions simultaneously or otherwise; Petition dismissed

[Sachin Sharma v. Palvi Sharma,  2020 SCC OnLine HP 2109, decided on 26-10-2020]


[Chhattisgarh High Court]

Chh HC | S. 320 CrPC is no bar to the exercise of power of quashing of FIR in matrimonial matters; Petition allowed

[Gurumukh Das Chandani v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 568, decided on 27-10-2020]


[Allahabad High Court]

All HC | Principle contained in S. 141 of NI Act is not applicable to a sole-proprietary concern, firm need not be arraigned as an accused while making a claim for recovery under S. 138 of the NI Act

[Dhirendra Singh v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1130, decided on 13-10-2020]


[Karnataka High Court]

[MV Act] Kar HC | Will the insurance company be liable for compensation if the vehicle was insured as ‘private vehicle’ but plyed on ‘hire’ at the time of accident? HC decides

[United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Basavaraj, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 1652, decided on 02-11-2020]


[National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission]

NCDRC | Can a consumer claim refund of principal amount if flat not delivered on time? Commission untangles two fundamentals for Buyer — Consumer

[Ankur Goyal v. Rise Project (P) Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine NCDRC 465, decided on 14-10-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Himachal Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Jyotsna Rewal Dua JJ. disposed off the writ petition in light of settled law regarding the scope of regulation of schools by the Government.

The facts of the case are that a government notification dated 27-05-2020 was issued regarding the collection of school fee in the wake of COVID-19 which included mainly to only charge tuition fee on a monthly basis, payment of which is optional, no fine chargeable and no restriction on attending online classes on delay of fee payment along with timely payment of salaries to teachers without any pay cuts. Aggrieved by the said notification registered association of 45 private schools have preferred the instant petition to quash the said notification being unreasonable and oppressive.

Counsel for the petitioners R. K. Gautam and Radhika Gautam, relying on the Supreme Court decision in  T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka, (2002) 8 SCC 481 and P.A. Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 6 SCC 537 submitted that any action of the State Government seeking to regulate or control admissions including interference in the fee structure of private unaided educational institutes will constitute a serious encroachment on the right and autonomy and liable to be struck down.

Counsel for the respondents Ashok Sharma, Ranjan Sharma, Vinod Thakur and Seema Sharma submitted that the notification in question has only deferred the collection of some fees and charges usually levied by the schools, while permitting them to collect only the tuition fee during the lockdown period and hence the State Government has not encroached on any right by private schools.

The Court on hearing the submissions of both sides held that while directing the private schools to neither stop payment of monthly salary nor reduce the existing total emoluments being paid to their teaching and non-teaching staff but at the same time permitting the schools to collect only the tuition fee, that too on monthly basis without authorizing them to compulsorily realize even this tuition fee is an unreasonable restriction. It was further observed that the impugned notifications were issued by the State Government practically in a state of emergency therefore perhaps principles of natural justice were not complied before their issuance. Hence in light of the observations and authoritative pronouncements stated above, the Court directed the State Government to revisit and reexamine the notification.

The Court also directed that in case of exceptional financial hardship reported by any parent, the school authority concerned must examine the situation within a week on compassionate grounds and ensure proper attendance of teaching & non-teaching staff and impart quality online education to the students.

In view of the above, impugned notification is quashed and petition disposed off.[Independent Schools Association v. State of Himachal Pradesh,  2020 SCC OnLine HP 1267, decided on 24-08-2020]


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: Jayant Nath, J., while hearing a matter with regard to parents defaulting in payment of tuition fees to schools, held that Schools can decline to provide Online Education facility to the students whose parents fail to explain the reason for the default.

Petition filed sought an appropriate writ to quash the Circular dated 18th April, 2020 and to allow the School to charge the actual expenditure incurred during the lockdown period in the form of fees from the students.

Petitioner submits that the Circular is ultra-vires the Delhi School Education Act.

Contentions

Petitioner’s counsel pointed out from the Circular that no fee except tuition fee would be charged during the lockdown period, another thing that was extracted from the Circular was that in no case, the ID and password shall be denied to getting online access of educational facilities to those students who were unable to pay school fee due to financial crisis.

Due to the above-stated clauses, 40 % of the students defaulted in paying fees which resulted in struggle to pay salaries of the staff and teachers.

Standing Counsel for GNCTD submitted that petitioner was free to take steps including issuing of notice to the parents who defaulted in paying tuition fees.

Decision

Bench held that in view of the above circumstances, if the parents defaulted in payment of tuition fees for more than 2 months, petitioner is free to issue appropriate notice to explain the reason of such default and in case they fail to do so, the petitioner is free to so communicate the same to the parents and decline to provide them ID and Password for online education facility for the students. 

Matter to be listed on 5-08-2020.[Queen Mary School Northend v. Director of Education, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 736 , decided on 08-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: While deciding the instant petitions filed by the several unaided private schools and educational institutions, all of which challenged the directions issued by the Director, School Education, wherein the schools were required to not charge any tuition fee for the lockdown period; Nirmaljit Kaur, J., held that direction to the privately unaided Institutions who are not giving online classes not to charge tuition fee for the lockdown/curfew period is discriminatory and arbitrary, as there is no rationale in laying down such a classification especially when the obligations and basic expenses of all private un-aided schools remain the same irrespective of whether they are conducting online classes or not.   

The petitions challenged the DSE Memo dated 14-05-2020. Apart from the aforementioned direction regarding tuition fee, the Memo also directed the schools to not increase the school fees for the 2020-21 Session and not to remove any teacher or reduce their salaries. The counsels for the petitioners raised questions on the authority of the State Government to issue such Memo and argued that the Directions were arbitrary and defy any logic. They contended that it is an inherent right of a private school to generate funds for their functioning and financial obligations including salaries of the teaching and non teaching staff. For the respondents, Advocate General Atul Nanda argued that Article 162 empowers the State to issue directions on matters enumerated in List II of State List of the Seventh Schedule, which also extends to List III-Concurrent List, except as provided in the Constitution itself or in any law passed by the Parliament. The respondents further argued that policy decisions cannot be tested under Article 226 of the Constitution.

They further contended that the petitioners do not have a uniform fee structure and the breakup of school fee and expenses for each school also differ. R.S. Bains, counsel for the parents who had been impleaded as party respondents, submitted that the parents should not be made to pay for the services which have not been rendered, especially when either some of the schools did not offer online services or because they reside in remote areas where the online facilities are not available.

Perusing the contentions of the parties, the Bench deemed it fit to lay down the following guidelines regarding the issue-

  • The schools can collect the admission fees. All schools irrespective whether they offered online classes during the lock-down period or not, are entitled to collect the tuition fee. However, they will continue to endeavour and impart online/ distance learning so that education is not adversely impacted due to the present or future lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19.
  • The school management of each school shall work out their actual expenditure incurred under the annual charges for the period the school remained closed and recover only such genuine expenditure incurred by them.
  • The schools shall restrain themselves from increasing the fee for the year 2020-21 and adopt the same fee structure as of session 2019- 20.
  • Any parent not able to pay the school fee  may file their application along with necessary proof about their financial status, which shall be looked into by the school authority sympathetically for concession or exemption of the entire fee as the case may be. In case the grievances of the parents are not resolved, then they may approach the Regulatory Body constituted under Section 7 of Punjab Regulation of fee of Un-aided Educational Institutions Act, 2016
  • In case any school is facing a financial crunch for not having charged the increased fee for the year 2020-21, may move a representation to the District Education Officer along with proof of the same, who shall look into it and pass appropriate orders within three weeks of the receipt of such an application.

[Independent Schools’ Association Chandigarh v. State of Punjab, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 847 , decided on 30-06-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: A Division Bench of S. Manikumar ,CJ and Shaji P. Chaly, J. dismissed a writ petition on account of maintenance expenditure incurred by school even during lockdown.

The petitioners in the present case are students of Sree Buddha Central School who filed the instant petition seeking to direct the State Government to issue directions to the School for providing quality online/virtual class using modern video conferencing techniques along with charging only monthly tuition fees and to ensure that no student is denied the same on the reason of failure to pay fees.

The counsel of the petitioners Manu Ramchandran and Sameer M. Nair submitted while referring to Rule 29 of the Kerala Education Rules, 1959 that respondent school is a recognized school and, therefore, cannot charge fees more than the prescribed as schools can only charge fees to the extent of the expenses for running it and the levy of fees is to be without any profit motive.  He further submitted that during the lockdown from March to May, 2020, schools were closed and online classes commenced only from June 2020. Students have been asked to pay tuition fees for the above said period also wherein such digital classes were in the form of poor quality education as it was given through voice notes on whatsapp instead of proper and quality based online classes.

The counsels for the respondents were Surin George IPE, S. Nirmal, R.T. Pradeep, M. Bindudas and K.C. Harish. It was submitted by the respondent school that the school is only levying the fees charged on the former year without enhancing a single pie. It was further submitted that teaching, non teaching staff and IT professionals who were engaged in training teachers about online classes have to be paid their monthly salary, no matter whether there was lock down or not.

The Court, on hearing both sides observed that no separate annual fee was demanded by the respondent school whereas the fees charged for the previous year and the current year is same and there is no change in the same. Hence, the Court further accepting the argument that monthly salaries for the teaching and non-teaching staff has to be paid, found no irregularity or illegality in the actions of the respondents.

In view of the above facts and arguments, the petition was dismissed. [Sreelekshmi S. v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2494 , decided on 30-06-2020]