Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a major win for Private Schools in the State of Rajasthan, the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, JJ has directed the School Managements to collect fees for the academic year 2019-2020 as well as 2020-2021 from the students, equivalent to fees amount notified for the academic year 2019- 2020, in six monthly installments commencing from 5th March, 2021 and ending on 5th August, 2021.

Noticing that the hearing in the matter is likely to take some more time, the Court passed ‘interim directions which will address the concerns of all parties in some measure’.

In the order that came as a big blow to the parents as most of the classes in the year 2020 have been conducted online due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the Court, in order to balance the interest of the Schools and the parents, further passed the following interim directions:

  1. The 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.
  2. Where the parents have difficulty in remitting the fee in terms of this interim order, it will be open to those parents to approach the school concerned by an individual representation and the management of the school will consider such representation on a case-to-case basis sympathetically.
  3. The above arrangement will not affect collection of fees for the academic year 2021-2022, which would be payable by the students as and when it becomes due and payable, and as notified by the management/school.
  4. In respect of the ensuing Board examinations for classes X and XII (to be conducted in 2021) the school management shall not withhold the name of any student/candidate on the ground of non-payment of the fee/arrears, if any, on obtaining undertaking of the concerned parent/student.

The Court, however, clarified that the above arrangements would be subject to the outcome of the matters pending before the Court including the final directions to be given to the parties and without prejudice to the rights and contentions of the parties in these proceedings.

The Court also directed the State of Rajasthan to ensure that all government outstanding dues towards unit cost payable to respective unaided schools are settled within one month from the today and, in any case, before 31st March, 2021.

The matter will now be taken up for hearing on February 15, 2021.

[Gandhi Sewa Sadan Rajsamand v. State of Rajasthan, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 70, order dated 08.02.2021]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench of Sanjib Banerjee and Moushumi Bhattacharya, JJ., while addressing the issues raised in the present petition observed that,

“From bringing to life the act-of-God clause that was mostly regarded as a redundant appendage in contracts to redefining the rules of human engagement, the pandemic has almost been all-pervasive.”

The present lis is born in its wake: upon a unique situation arising where students have been kept away from academic institutions for months together, prompting their parents or guardians to question why regular fees ought to be paid in such a scenario.

PRIVATE UNAIDED SCHOOLS | Concession in Fees

The point of public interest canvassed in the petitions is that private unaided schools should allow the substantial concession in fees as the physical conduct of classes has not been possible for more than 6 months and normal functioning may not resume in a full-fledged manner for several months more.

Profiteering by Schools

The parents or guardians complain of profiteering by the schools by unjustly enriching themselves even as several of the schools have terminated the services of several of the usual employees or have not paid the teachers in full and not incurred the normal expenses needed to physically operate such schools.

School’s Contention 

Almost all the schools represented contended that they have not removed any regular employee from the payrolls, and some even claim that the contractual staff have also been retained and paid during the lockdown.

Institutions controlled by the Church

The institutions controlled by the Church of North India and another which claims to be a linguistic minority educational institution, have objected to the Court seeking to interfere into their affairs.

They suggest that not only do they enjoy a special status accorded by Article 30(1) of the Constitution but they are also protected under Article 19 of the suprema lex.

No drastic measure

By and large, the schools indicate that they have not taken the ultimate drastic measure of excluding students from the limited online classes now conducted, though no fees may have been tendered on behalf of several students for the period beginning April, 2020.

The general refrain is that schools do not look at making any profit and, to the extent, their financial positions may allow, they are ready to accord concessions to parents or guardians of students in financial distress, but a general reduction of fees across the board should not be permitted.

Analysis and Decision

“…courts must exercise extreme self-restraint and not use the extensive amplitude as a springboard for judicial anarchy.”

In a breakdown scenario as a result of any natural calamity or an act of God or when the subordinate judiciary is not available or a litigant has no access to any other court in an extreme case, the High Court must not forget the width of the authority available to it and its constitutional obligation to discharge its duties governed by the overarching established principles designed by what may be loosely said to be the rule of law.

Two other broadheads of objection have been taken by some of the schools as noticed above: under Article 30(1) of the Constitution and under Article 19 thereof read with the right of privacy as espoused.

Court while analysing the set of contentions with regard t minority institutions stated that,

“…even minority educational institutions need to adhere to certain fundamental norms, the most basic of them being that they cannot be run for the purpose of making profit”.

Bench added that the basic requirement is that the fees charged must have some correlation with the facilities provided.

If the facilities provided over a long stretch of time, as for the best part of a year and probably more, cost less because physical classes have not been held, a substantial part of the money saved has to be returned without, for the moment, going to the question as to whether it should be returned pro rata or on a need-based basis.

Assessment of fees

Hence, Court stated that an assessment of the fees demanded or obtained during the lockdown period and in the absence of physical classes in the schools, may not amount to the breach of any right conferred by Article 30(1) of the Constitution in respect of a school run by a religious or a linguistic minority.

The same rule as above should apply to all private unaided schools since they are governed by private contracts between private individuals.

Bench in view of the unprecedented situation and as a one time measure issued the following directions:

  • No increase in fees during FY 2020-2021.
  • From the month beginning April, 2020 till the month following the one in which the schools reopen in the physical mode will offer a minimum of 20% reduction of fees across the board. Non-essential charges for use of facilities not availed of will not be permissible.
  • Session fees traditionally charged periodically will be permissible, but again, subject to a maximum of 80 per cent of the quantum charged for the corresponding period in the financial year 2019-20.
  • The minimum figure of 20 per cent reduction in the monthly tuition fees will be on the basis of the tuition fees charged for the corresponding month in the previous financial year.
  • For F.Y. 2020-21, a maximum of 5% excess of revenue over expenditure will be permissible. The balance excess should be passed on by way of general concession or special concession in cases of extreme distress.
  • No amount towards the arrears on account of revision of pay to teachers or other employees can be passed on in the fees for the financial year 2020-21. The amount on account of arrears may be recovered in 2021-22 and 2022-23, if normal physical functioning resumes by March 31, 2021.
  • There will be no increase in salaries of teachers or of other employees during the financial year 2020-21. In case any school has given effect to a higher pay scale, the difference must not be realised out of the school fees.
  • Parents and guardians of students are requested not to avail of the reduction in schools fees, if their financial situation does not merit the reduction.
  • In addition to the across-the-board reduction, every school will entertain applications from parents or guardians for further reduction or waiver or exemption or delayed or installment payments, as the case may be. Said applications must be supported with financial statements.
  • Such applications have to be filed before the respective schools by November 15, 2020, and every application should be dealt with on an individual basis and a decision communicated to the applicant by December 31, 2020.
  • When an application for further reduction or waiver or exemption or delayed payment of fees has been disposed of by the relevant school but the parents or guardians are aggrieved by the decision, an application may be filed, upon deposit of Rs 1000, to a committee for further adjudication of the request and to assess the decision communicated by the relevant school. Such application has to be filed within 10 days of the rejection.
  • The committee referred to in the immediate preceding clause will be headed by Mr Tilok Bose, Senior Advocate as its chairperson and will be assisted by the Headmistress or Principal of Heritage School and Ms Priyanka Agarwal, Advocate for the parents in WPA 5890 of 2020.
  • The deposit obtained by the committee will be retained by the committee and Rs 800 therefrom disbursed to the auditor or firm of chartered accountants for the first time the accounts of a particular school need to be assessed by the auditor or firm of chartered accountants. For every repeat exercise, meaning studying the accounts of the same school from the second time onwards, Rs 500 per case will be paid to the auditors. The balance amount in the hands of the committee will be used for the purpose of secretarial and managerial services the committee may be required to obtain.
  • By November 30, 2020, the committee should indicate a dedicated e-mail account whereat the appeals against the decisions of the schools may be filed.
  • By November 30, 2020, the committee should indicate a dedicated e-mail account whereat the appeals against the decisions of the schools may be filed.
  • Every application made before the committee must clearly indicate the name and other particulars of the student involved and furnish the e-mail ID of the school and its Principal or the like for the committee to communicate with the school.
  • The committee must endeavour to dispose of every application within 45 days of the receipt thereof and the decision of the committee will be binding, subject to the relevant schools having a right to apply to this court in the present proceedings for the reconsideration thereof.
  • The quantum of fees to be charged for every month will be indicated by the individual schools on any website and the notice-boards of the schools and informed to Advocate for the petitioner in WPA 5890 of 2020.
  • By November 30, 2020, the fees payable in terms of this order for the period up to November 30, 2020, should be tendered on behalf of all students.
  • With effect from December 8, 2020 all schools will be entitled to disallow students whose fees have not been paid in full in terms of this order and those who have not applied for reduction or waiver or the like. However, schools should ensure that this extreme step is taken only after exercising due care and caution.
  • No student will be entitled to apply for a transfer certificate without the full quantum of fees in terms of this order being first discharged.
  • Fees payable by students to boards for examinations or otherwise shall have to be paid in addition to the monthly fees and other charges in terms of this order and no waiver or reduction of the fees or charges payable to the boards may be sought or granted.
  • There will be no refund of the fees already paid.
  • The expenses incurred for developing the infrastructure of the schools should not be passed on to the students during the current financial year, though it will be open to recover the same from the students from financial year 2021-22 onwards, if the physical functioning resumes by March 31, 2021.
  • The cap of five per cent of the revenue over expenditure for the year 2020-21 will be subject to the exception that it may exceed the five per cent only if the general reduction afforded to the parents is not availed of by any of the parents and no student in financial distress has been denied additional concession despite being worthy.
  • No unusual expense should be incurred during financial year 2020-21 and no development or infrastructure expense should be incurred unless absolutely unavoidable.
  • Above directions for any form of concession will not apply to any of the 145 schools where the average monthly fee (calculated on an annual basis over the year from April, 2020 to March, 2021) is less than Rs 800. However, such schools may voluntarily take such measures as deemed fit.
  • The other private unaided schools in the State should also abide by the directions mutatis mutandis, particularly since the matter has been heard extensively and as public interest litigation.

Court made it clear that the present order may not be used as a precedent for the regulation of fees in the schools in future.

The instant petitions will appear next on 07-12-2020 to monitor the progress in the implementation of directions issued.

Moushumi Bhattacharya, J. supported the reasons laid down by Sanjib Banerjee, J., leading to the conclusions.

Bhattacharya, J.,  proposed to supplement three issues: Articles 226, 30(1) and 14 of the Constitution of India together with the right to privacy in the foreground of the arguments made.

The endeavour of the Court is that students must not be caught in the crossfire between their parents and the school authorities.

Under Article 226, the power of the High Courts is

“……..to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of…….”

The order in which the words have been positioned indicate that the writ courts not only have the power to issue the five writs but also to issue orders and directions having the force and effect of the five writs, separately or together, for enforcing the rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. The wide berth contemplated was recognised in Dwarka Nath v. Income Tax Officer, AIR 1966 SC 81 as an enabler for tailoring the reliefs to fit the shape and peculiarities of the case and stretching the parameters of the power “to reach injustice wherever it is found”.

But does that mean that a court’s authority to issue writs under Article 226 is unfettered?

The court draws its own boundaries within which it decides the lis on a number of factors; including but not limited to whether there is an efficacious remedy or alternative forum which the petitioner should have first exhausted, whether the right can be reasonably restricted, where there is stark absence of a public law element in the discharge of duties of the concerned entity or even where the conduct of the petitioner does not call for the court’s intervention on the facts of the case.

The privacy argument of the CNI and the linguistic minority schools is another aspect which should be briefly dwelt on. K.S. Puttaswamy (Privacy-9 J.) v. Union of India (2017) 10 SCC 1 has been placed to elevate the right to privacy as a ‘travelling right’.

It is a right aimed at preserving the spatial and intellectual integrity of an individual in matters of choice and acts as a springboard for the connected freedoms which are guaranteed under the Constitution.

As noticed in several decisions impacting minority institutions, Article 30(1) was contemplated by the framers to serve as a shield and not as a sword. After all, can these schools bypass the statutory requirement of filing their periodic audited financial numbers to the concerned authorities?

Schools cannot be simplistically categorised according to the financial profile of the guardians and whether as such they need a fee-reduction for their wards.

“…a benefit, like a right, cannot be denied to a greater number merely on the ground that it may be misused by a few.”

Adding to the above, Bench also stated that the teachers who need the schools to remain financially solvent for their job-security may also be parents mired in debts/loss of service who would benefit from a fee-reduction. The mechanism proposed had to as inclusive as possible representing the concerns of guardians across the board, irrespective of privilege and financial bracket.

“We have designed a 2-tier mechanism not only to provide guardians with a window for further concessions but also to make the process as free of coercion/ compulsion and as much transparent as is practicably possible under the circumstances.”

[Biplab Kumar Chowdhury v. Union of India, WPA 5530 of 2020, decided on 13-08-2020]


Counsels

For the State: Kishore Datta, A-G, Senior Advocate & Sayan Sinha, Advocate

For Union of India: Y.J. Dastoor, ASG, Senior Advocate & Siddhartha Lahiri, Advocate.

For the petitioner
In WPA 5890 of 2020: Advocates, Sai Deepak, Rishav Kumar Singh, Anurag Mitra, Priyanka Agarwal and Avinash Kumar Sharma.

For the petitioner (in person) In WPA 5378 of 2020: Advocate Partyush Patwari

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Orissa High Court: K.R. Mohapatra J., ordered in favour of the aggrieved student in light of prevailing extraordinary situation due to COVID-19.

The facts of the case are such that petitioner 2 son of petitioner 1 was admitted as student in Class 11 in the respondent school and was unfortunately taken into custody in February 2020 and released on bail in March 2020. While in custody annual exam was conducted and petitioner student couldn’t appear. In the last week of March nationwide lockdown was announced and the petitioner student could not submit his representation by 17-06-2020 in view of the extraordinary situation. Later his representation was rejected by the school due to delay. Odisha Human Rights Commission ordered the school to consider the case of the student but to no relief. Later this court vide order dated 17-07-2020 directed the school to provide the student with ID and password for online classes for Class XII (Commerce). Though the ID password was provided to the student but did not allow him to appear for the 1st-semester examination, him not having passed class XIth. Aggrieved by the same and as the half-yearly exams are approaching the present petition is filed for promotion of the petitioner student from Class-XI to Class-XII who is prosecuting his studies (Commerce Stream) in Delhi Public School, Kalinga, Adhalia, Cuttack i.e. the respondent school.

Counsel for the petitioners D.P Nanda, V. Narasingh, S. Das, S. Devi and B.B. Choudhury placed before the court press release and notification by CBSE dated 01-04-2020 and 13-05-2020 respectively

CBSE Press Release dated 01-04-2020:

 “2. For classes 9 and 11: It has come to our notice that though several schools affiliated to CBSE have completed their examination, evaluation and promotion process for students who were studying in grades 9 and 11 in the 2019-20 academic session, there are several schools that have not been able to do so. This includes among others, Kendriaya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, State/UT Government schools, private schools, schools located in India and abroad, etc. All such schools are advised to promote students of grades 9 and 11 to the next grades on the basis of all the school-based assessments including project work, periodic tests, term exams. etc. conducted so far. For any child who is unable to clear this internal process, (in any number of subjects), the school may utilize this period for providing remedial interventions, and school may give the opportunity of appearing in school-based test/s, online or offline. The promotion of such children may be decided on the basis of such tests.”

CBSE Notification dated 13-05-2020:

The whole country is facing a challenging time due to Covid-19. This is an unprecedented situation. Children are confined at home. Their schools are closed. They are experiencing mental stress and anxiety. Parents are worried about salaries, health of family etc. In this difficult time, children who have not been able to clear school examinations will be even more upset. The queries of such students are constantly being received by CBSE Queries from parents are also being received continuously. At such a difficult time, all of us will have to make joint efforts to relieve students from stress and to help them to mitigate their anxiety. CBSE, in view of the requests of the parents and students, as a one-time measure in extraordinary situation has decided that all the failed students of 9th and 11th will be provided an opportunity to appear in a school-based test again. Opportunity will be extended to students irrespective of whether their examinations have been completed and the exam results have been released or their exams have not been completed. This facility is to be extended irrespective of number of subjects and attempts. Schools by providing remediation to such students can conduct online/offline/innovative tests and may decide promotion on the basis of this test. This test can be taken in all subjects in which students have failed. Before holding the test, the schools will give sufficient time to the students to prepare. Therefore, all schools affiliated to CBSE will provide an opportunity to all the failed students of classes 9th and 11th for all subjects where students have failed. It is once again reiterated that this exemption is to be extended to all the students even if they have been given the opportunity earlier to this notification also. This one-time opportunity is being extended only in current year in view of the unprecedented conditions of Covid-19. This benefit is a onetime measure and will not be extended in future.”

Sd-Dr. Sanyam Bhardwaj,

Controller of Examinations”

 Counsel representing respondent school A P Bose submitted that due to the callous attitude and negligence, the petitioner student has lost his opportunity to appear in the re-test Annual Examination of Class-XI. Counsel for CBSE, T.N. Pattnaik submitted that clarification was asked from the school regarding whether the student was given a chance to appear or not, no reply of which has been received by the CBSE. Hence CBSE prayed for no role in the said matter.

The Court in view of the documents placed and arguments made, observed that the educational institutions must take all possible measures to build up the career of the students. They should not stand as a stumbling block, particularly when the academic career of a student is at stake.

The Court held that the tenor and purport of the CBSE notification dated 13-05-2020 makes it clear that the notification was issued so that all the failed students of 9th and 11th are provided an opportunity to appear in a school-based test again irrespective of whether their examinations have been completed and the examination results have been released or their examinations have not been completed. In view of the above, the Court directed the school authorities to conduct a special examination for the petitioner student to appear in the class promotion and shall also be allowed to appear in the Test/Half Yearly Examination of Class-XII (Commerce Stream) which is scheduled to commence from 12.10.2020.

In view of the above, the petition stands disposed off.[Shamshad Begum v. UOI, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 699, decided on 09-10-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued new guidelines today, for opening up more activities in areas outside the Containment Zones. In these guidelines, which will come into effect from October 1, 2020, the process of re-opening of activities has been extended further. The new guidelines, issued today, are based on feedback received from States and UTs, and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments.

Salient features of the new guidelines

Activities permitted from 15th October 2020, in areas outside the Containment Zones

  • Cinemas/ theatres/ multiplexes will be permitted to open with upto 50% of their seating capacity, for which, SOP will be issued by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
  • Business to Business (B2B) Exhibitions will be permitted to open, for which, SOP will be issued by the Department of Commerce.
  • Swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons will be permitted to open, for which the standard operating procedure (SOP) will be issued by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MoYA&S).
  • Entertainment parks and similar places will be permitted to open, for which the SOP will be issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).

Opening of Schools, colleges, education institutions and coaching institutions

  • For re-opening of schools and coaching institutions, State/ UT Governments have been given the flexibility to take a decision after 15th October 2020, in a graded manner.  The decision shall be taken in consultation with the respective school/ institution management, based on their assessment of the situation, and subject to the following conditions:
  • Online/ distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and shall be encouraged.
  • Where schools are conducting online classes, and some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so.
  • Students may attend schools/ institutions only with the written consent of parents.
  • Attendance must not be enforced, and must depend entirely on parental consent.
  • States /UTs will prepare their own SOP regarding health and safety precautions for reopening of schools/ institutions based on the SOP to be issued by Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL), Ministry of Education, Government of India, keeping local requirements in view.
  • Schools, which are allowed to open, will have to mandatorily follow the SOP to be issued by Education Departments of States/ UTs.
  • Department of Higher Education (DHE), Ministry of Education may take a decision on the timing of the opening of Colleges/ Higher Education Institutions, in consultation with Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), based on the assessment of the situation. Online/ distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and shall be encouraged.
  • However, Higher Education Institutions only for research scholars (Ph.D) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory/ experimental works will be permitted to open from 15th October, 2020, as under:
    1. For Centrally Funded Higher Education Institutions, the Head of Institution will satisfy herself/ himself that there is a genuine requirement of research scholars (Ph.D) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream for laboratory/experimental works.
    2. For all other Higher Education Institutions e.g. State Universities, Private Universities etc., they may open only for research scholars (Ph.D.) and postgraduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory/experimental works as per decision to be taken by the respective State/UT Governments.

Regulation of gatherings

  • Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations have already been permitted with a ceiling of 100 persons, outside Containment Zones only.  Now State/ UT Governments have been given the flexibility to permit such gatherings beyond the limit of 100 persons, outside Containment Zones, after 15th October 2020, which will be subject to the following conditions:
  • In closed spaces, a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be allowed, with a ceiling of 200 persons. Wearing of face masks, maintaining social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and use of hand wash or sanitizer will be mandatory.
  • In open spaces, keeping the size of the ground/ space in view, and with strict observance of social distancing, mandatory wearing of face masks, provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer.

To ensure that such gatherings do not spread COVID-19, State/ UT Governments will issue detailed SOPs to regulate such gathering, and strictly enforce the same.

  • All activities, except the following, shall be permitted outside containment zones:
    1. International air travel of passengers, except as permitted by MHA.
  • Lockdown shall continue to be implemented strictly in the Containment Zones till 31st October, 2020.
  • Containment Zones shall be demarcated by the District authorities at micro level after taking into consideration the guidelines of MoHFW with the objective of effectively breaking the chain of transmission. Strict containment measures will be enforced in these containment zones and only essential activities will be allowed.
  • Within the containment zones, strict perimeter control shall be maintained and only essential activities allowed.
  • These Containment Zones will be notified on the websites of the respective District Collectors and by the States/ UTs and information will also be shared with MOHFW.

States not to impose any local lockdown outside Containment Zones

  • State/ UT Governments shall not impose any local lockdown (State/ District/ sub-division/City/ village level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Central Government.

No restriction on Inter-State and intra-State movement

  • There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements.

National Directives for COVID-19 management

  • National Directives for COVID-19 management shall continue to be followed throughout the country, with a view to ensure social distancing.  Shops will need to maintain adequate physical distancing among customers. MHA will monitor the effective implementation of National Directives.

Protection for vulnerable persons

  • Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

Use of Aarogya Setu

  • The use of Aarogya Setu mobile application will continue to be encouraged.

Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 30-09-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

“Education is the passport to the future.”

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula, JJ., while addressing the issue with regard to digital education observed that

“…tuition fee was payable towards imparting education and “not for a lien on a seat”

Schools imparting Synchronous Face-to-face Real-Time Online Education, not as a voluntary service but as a part of their responsibility under the RTE Act, 2009.

DIGITAL DIVIDE

Inequality in education has been around long before Covid-19, but the pandemic has exacerbated the same by adding another strand/element to it, namely, the digital divide.

Reopening of physical classroom

Unparalleled education disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, as, despite lapse of nearly six months, the Union of India and the Government of NCT of Delhi are yet to announce a date for reopening of the physical classroom for elementary schools.

Concern in the present petition

The instant Public Interest Litigation was filed seeking a direction to respondents to supply free laptops/android mobile phones/electronic tablets with high-speed internet to children belonging to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) so that they could attend their classes by way of video conferencing just like fee-paying students in their classes.

During the pendency of the present petition, some other schools also started online classes, the petitioner sought modification in the prayer clause to include children studying in these schools, so that comprehensive orders could be passed under Article 21A of the Constitution of India for all the children other than fee-paying students.

Analysis and Decision

Article 21A of the Constitution imposes an enforceable/justiciable obligation upon the State to provide free and compulsory elementary education to each and every child between the age of six and fourteen in a manner as determined by law.

In pursuance of the above stated constitutional obligation, the Centre enacted the RTE Act, 2009.

Court cited the Supreme Court decision in Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India, (2008) 6 SCC 1, wherein it was held that,

Universal elementary education as a constitutional goal and obligation is a salutary principle and while interpreting the provisions of the RTE Act, 2009, Article 21A has to be the guiding principle.

Supreme Court in Jindal Stainless Ltd. v. State of Haryana, (2017) 12 SCC 1 held that,

“…the Constitution being a living and dynamic document ought to receive a dynamic and pragmatic interpretation that harmonizes and balances competing aims and objectives and promotes attainment of natural goods and objections.”

RTE Act, 2009 is not a historical Act but an ‘always speaking statute’ which intends to achieve social, economic and political equity and human progress over a period of time.

Court observed that,

RTE Act, 2009 is not a static but a living and a dynamic document and it ought to receive a pragmatic interpretation.

Consistent with the legislative intent, an updating construction has to be applied to RTE Act, 2009 and the Court of law can deal with a drastically changed situation, like Covid-19 pandemic, even if it was not known or visualized by Parliament when the Act was enacted.

Adding to its’ analysis, Court stated that the new National Education Policy, 2020 prepared by the Government of India states that education is fundamental for achieving full human potential, developing an equitable and just society, and promoting national development.

Why the RTE Act, 2009 does not define the word ‘Education’?

Bench in the present matter was of the view that the RTE Act, 2009 intentionally does not define the word Education as it needs to deal with changes in society as well as technological advances, outbreak of diseases, natural calamities and a broad range of circumstances that are not possible to anticipate in advance.

Concept of synchronous face-to-face real-time online education

The concept of Synchronous Face-to-Face Real Time Online Education like any other alternate means/methods of dissemination of education, in that sense, is covered under the RTE Act, 2009.

The teaching through online means is in accordance with the RTE Act, 2009 requirements.

Adding to the above, the Court stated that at the present, the neighborhood schools are still open but the physical classrooms are closed and the mode of providing education has changed.

Court is of the view that tuition fees are payable towards imparting education and not for a lien on a seat. Accordingly, the word Education includes Synchronous Face-to-Face Real Time Online Education and respondent schools are estopped from contending to the contrary.

Differential Fee Structure

Section 12(2) of the RTE Act, 2009 unequivocally proves the existence of a differential fee structure amongst private unaided schools and consequently, differential methods/means of dissemination of instructions amongst the private schools.

Further, the Court added that just as private schools are free to adopt the mode of the method of imparting education they feel the most appropriate, the government schools also have similar freedom and flexibility.

There is neither any statutory obligation under the RTE Act, 2009 nor any recommendation by any statutory authority like State Academic Authority that the Synchronous Face-to-Face Real Time Online Education is the only suitable option during a pandemic.

High Court also opined that in view of the geographical location of a school or non-availability of technologically savvy teachers or poor availability of electricity or lack of internet penetration in the neighbourhood, it may also not be appropriate for a school to opt for Synchronous Face-to-Face Real Time Online Education.

There has to be one common minimum level/standard of impartation of education for all schools. Further, the said school has to then ensure that the same is uniformly adopted and followed sans any discrimination.

Bench opined that

Synchronous Face-to- Face Real Time Online Education is neither a core nor a non-derogable facet of either Article 21A of the Constitution or the RTE Act, 2009.

High Court was of the view that it cannot be said that the education being provided by GNCTD schools does not satisfy the basic minimum required level of impartation of education in the present extraordinary scenario.

Private Unaided Schools

The tuition fee charged by the private unaided schools is governed and regulated by the DSE Act and the same does not include expenses on devices such as laptops, phones, high-speed internet at children‟s homes, etc.

Even though the cost of such gadget/digital equipment which enables access to online learning facilities is not a part of tuition fee, yet it has to be provided free of cost to the EWS / DG students in terms of Section 12(1)(c) read with Section 3(2) of the Act, 2009 as cost of such equipment would be covered under Rule 11 of the Central RTE Rules, 2010 as well as Rule 10 of the Delhi RTE Rules, 2011 and Section 3(2) of the RTE Act, 2009 inasmuch as absence of such equipment ‘will prevent the child from pursuing his or her elementary education‘ at par with other students in the same class in the present scenario.

DIGITAL DIVIDE

To ensure a level playing field and to remedy this digital divide or digital gap or ̳digital apartheid‟ in addition to segregation, if the private unaided school has to bear any additional cost, it must bear it in the first instance with a right to claim reimbursement from the State in accordance with Section 12(2) of the RTE Act, 2009.

GNCTD must consider rewarding the schools that innovate.

Intra-class discrimination, especially inter-se 75% fee paying students viz-a-viz 25% EWS/DG students‟ upsets the ̳level playing field‘ and amounts to discrimination as well as creates a vertical division, digital divide or digital gap or „digital apartheid‘ in addition to segregation in a classroom which is violative of RTE Act, 2009 and Articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Constitution.

High Court directs constitution of a three-member committee within a week comprising Secretary, Education, Ministry of Education, Central Government or his nominee, Secretary Education, GNCTD or his nominee and a representative of respondent No.18 to frame a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for identification of standard gadget(s)/equipment(s) as well as the manufacturer/supplier and internet package so that EWS/DG students can access elementary education through digital online means.

Further, the private unaided schools shall file their claims for reimbursement under Section 12(2) to the GNCTD within eight weeks from the date of supply of such gadget(s)/equipment(s).

“To achieve education for all, Digital Education is a major component of the solution, though not a replacement for formal classroom schooling, provided digital- divide is erased from Indian Society.”

Creating a better and resilient elementary education system is increasingly important as a child’s starting point in life determines his/her future.

Concurring with the above view, Sanjeev Narula, J. stated that,

In the present pandemic situation, the shift towards online education has taken place literally overnight, and without much deliberation. One could argue that the unprecedented situation warranted such a drastic switch over. Therefore, I do not find any fault with the approach of the schools that have adopted digital technology for imparting education. However, it is necessary to issue a note of caution here so that the modes and methods adapted during this extraordinary time are not seen as the quintessential purpose of the Act.

The scheme of Article 21A and the RTE Act rests on a twofold premise: to prevent financial and psychological barriers from hindering access to primary education of children, and, non-discrimination in the imparting of education.

Reservation for EWS
Children of the socially and economically weaker sections are normally unable to secure an admission in private schools due to their unaffordable fees. The RTE Act seeks to address this gap via section 12(1)(c) which mandates all private schools to reserve 25 per cent of their seats for children belonging to economically weaker sections and disadvantaged group.

DIGITAL ENABLEMENT

Imbalance in the imparting of education due to the non- availability of gadgets, internet connectivity and modes of access, has the potential of pushing the less-fortunate children outside the education system altogether. The digital enablement of EWS students, is thus, in my opinion, absolutely necessary.

The precious right guaranteed by the Constitution of India and the RTE Act has to be replicated in the online environment.

It is the responsibility of the schools and obligation of the State to assist EWS students to overcome all constraints that deprive them of meaningful education.

[Justice for All v. GNCTD, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1217, decided on 18-09-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Government of India is following a phase-wise unlocking of activities. In days to come, this would also involve partial resumption of activities in schools for students of classes 9th to 12th on a voluntary basis, for taking guidance from their teachers. This would be allowed from 21-09-2020.

Generic Preventive Measures

The generic preventive measures include simple public health measures that are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. These measures need to be observed by all (teachers, employees and students) in these places at all times.

These include:

  1. Physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed as far as feasible.
  2. Use of face covers/masks to be made mandatory.
  3. Frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty.

    Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) can be done wherever feasible.

  4. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing off used

    tissues properly.

  5. Self-monitoring of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest.
  6. Spitting shall be strictly prohibited.
  7. Installation & use of Aarogya Setu App may be advised wherever feasible.

All schools (with classes IX to XII) shall specifically ensure the following arrangements

  1. Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged.
  2. Students of class 9th to 12th shall be permitted to visit their school on voluntary basis for taking guidance from their teachers. This will be subject to written consent of their parents/guardians. Such visits and teacher – student interaction must be organized in a staggered manner.

After opening of the schools

At the entry point

  1. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions. Multiple gates/separate gates, if feasible, should be used for entry and exit.
  2. Only asymptomatic persons (teachers, employees and students) to be allowed in the premises. If a teacher/employee/student is found to be symptomatic, he/she should be referred to nearest health center.
  3. Posters/standees on preventive measures about COVID-19 to be displayed prominently.
  4. Proper crowd management in the parking lots, in corridors and in elevators – duly following physical distancing norms shall be organized.
  5. Entry of visitors should be strictly regulated/restricted.

SOP to be followed in case a student/teacher/employee develops symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty in breathing)

  1. Place the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others.
  2. Inform parents/guardians as the case may be.
  3. Patient will remain isolated while wearing a mask/face cover till such time they are examined by a doctor.
  4. Immediately inform the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or call the state or district helpline.
  5. A risk assessment shall be undertaken by the designated public health authority (district RRT/treating physician) and accordingly further action be initiated regarding management of case, their contacts and need for disinfection.
  6. Disinfection of the premises to be taken up if the person is found positive.

Read the detailed notification here: FinalSOPonpartialresumptionofactivitiesinschools8092020


Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

[Notification dt. 08-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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

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 BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: While allowing the instant petition seeking for issuance of a writ of mandamus directing the State Government to take all necessary steps to establish a Government Lower Primary School at Elambra village in Manjeri Municipality, expeditiously; the Division Bench of S. Manikumar, CJ, and Shaji P. Chaly, J., directed the State Government to sanction the establishment of Government LP School, at Elambra within a period of three months. The Bench strictly observed that the people of Elambra have been fighting a long battle of 35 years with the might of the State Government in order to establish a lower primary school- a demand that is completely in consonance with the law and the Constitution and there is a conspicuous failure on the part of the State Government in acknowledging this demand.

The petitioner, a resident of Elambra, filed the instant PIL. As per the facts, the village is located on the outskirts of Manjeri Municipality and is a socially and educationally backward area. There are no primary schools within the radius of 3 km and during the last 30 years, the local residents have been making continuous effort to get a new Government LP School at Elambra. Several representations were submitted before the concerned authorities concerned, including the Minister of Education, all of which yielded no result. The petitioner further submitted that the concerned authorities have conducted several inspections and had submitted their reports, which were ignored by the Government. P. Venugopal representing the petitioners argued that the Government failed to discharge the duties cast upon them under Section 19 of the Kerala Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2011 r/w Section 3(3) of the Kerala Education Act, 1958. The petitioner also presented Reports prepared by Manjeri Dy. District Education Officer and Malappuram District Educational Officer; Order issued by Kerala State Human Rights Commission and Kerala State Child Rights Protection Commission (hereinafter Commissions); all of which were clear on the point that Elambra is a remote area with the closest primary schools situated 5 km away and the Government is constitutionally and statutorily obligated to take concrete steps for providing basic educational infrastructure. The respondents were represented by Surin George Ipe.

The Court perused the facts; contentions; the Reports and relevant Supreme Court cases highlighting the Right to Education as a fundamental right. The Bench taking into account international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Convention on the Rights of the Child observed that, Right to Education is not only a fundamental right but it is also a Human Right. The Court delved in-depth on the evolution of a child’s right to education and the obligations of the State in relation to it. Taking into consideration statutes such as the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2010 and the concerned State legislations, the Court noted that that the people of Elambra have been demanding establishment of a Government Lower Primary School, whereas the State Government, without considering the reports of local educational authorities, by erroneously applying the Rules and not following the relevant statutory provisions particularly Section 3(3) of Kerala Education Act, 1958, Section 3 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 and Rule 6 of the Kerala Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2011, have denied sanction for establishment of a Government LP School in Elambra. The Court concurred with the reports presented by the local educational authorities which have clearly recorded that the area in question is educationally backward with no proper transport facility. There are Upper Primary and High schools in and around the locality within a distance of 2-5 kms. There is no Government LP school within the radius of 3 kms and people are depending upon schools, which are not within the neighbourhood of Elambra. The Court also noted that since the respondents did not challenge the Orders issued by the Commissions, therefore they cannot argue that such Orders are not binding on them. [T. Muhammed Faisi v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2981, decided on 29-07-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., stated that in case the Schools are violating the High Court’s earlier Order with regard to collection of only 40% tuition fees by unaided private institutions during the academic year 2019-2020, Contempt proceedings shall be instituted.

Petition was filed seeking writ of mandamus directing respondents to relax an order passed against the educational institutions precluding from collecting fees from the students to the extent to permit the schools to collect the fees due for academic year 2019-2020 and part fees for the academic year 2020-21 to meet the costs for paying the salaries, purchase and distributions of books, provisioning for online classes, etc.

Government Advocate on behalf of the Education Department submitted that several complaints have been received from parents to the effect that the Education Institutions insisted for the payment of the entire fees in violation of the interim orders passed by the Court on 17-07-2020.

Parents are hesitant to give a written complaint fearing consequences.

Bench taking serious note of the issue stated that education department shall conduct an immediate enquiry and if it would be found that the institutions have been collecting fees in violation of the interim orders passed by this Court, immediate action shall be taken against the schools.

Further, particulars of the Schools shall also be provided to this Court and if this Court finds that there is any violation, this Court will not hesitate to initiate Contempt Proceedings against the persons incharge of the School. The Director of School Education, Chennai, shall file a report on the action taken. [Tamil Nadu Nursery Primary Matriculation Higher Secondary Schools Assn. v. Chief Secy to Govt, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1638 , decided on 31-07-2020]


Also Read:

Madras HC | Unaided private institutions in T.N. to collect 40% tuition fees as advance fee; Arrears of tuition fees to  be paid before 30 Sept 2020

Cabinet DecisionsLegislation Updates

Union Cabinet approved the National Education Policy 2020, making way for large scale, transformational reforms in both school and higher education sectors.

This is the first education policy of the 21st century and replaces the thirty-four year old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986.  Built on the foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability, this policy is  aligned to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and aims to transform India into a vibrant knowledge society and global knowledge superpower by making both school and college education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, suited to 21st century needs and aimed at bringing out the unique capabilities of each student.

Important Highlights

School Education

Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education

NEP 2020 emphasizes on ensuring universal access to school education at all levels- pre school to secondaryInfrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts into the mainstream, tracking of students and their learning levels, facilitating multiple pathways to learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes, association of counselors or well-trained social workers with schools, open learning for classes3,5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, secondary education programs equivalent to Grades 10 and 12, vocational courses, adult literacy and life-enrichment programs are some of the proposed ways for achieving this. About 2 crore out of school children will be brought back into main stream under NEP 2020.

Early Childhood Care & Education with  new Curricular and Pedagogical Structure

With emphasis on Early Childhood Care and Education, the 10+2 structure of school curricula is to be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure corresponding to ages 3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years respectively.  This will bring the hitherto uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum, which has been recognized globally as the crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child. The new system will have 12 years of schooling with three years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.

NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8 . ECCE will be delivered through a significantly expanded and strengthened system of institutions including Anganwadis and pre-schools that will have teachers and Anganwadi workers trained in the ECCE pedagogy and curriculum. The planning and implementation of ECCE will be carried out jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development (WCD), Health and Family Welfare (HFW), and Tribal Affairs.

Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy

Recognizing Foundational Literacy and Numeracy as an urgent and necessary prerequisite to learning, NEP 2020 calls for setting up of a  National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD. States will prepare an implementation plan for attaining universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools for all learners by grade 3 by 2025.National Book Promotion Policy is to be formulated.

Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy

The school curricula and pedagogy will aim for holistic development of learners by equipping them with the key 21st century skills, reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning and critical thinking and greater focus on experiential learning. Students will have increased flexibility and choice of subjects. There will be no rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.

Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships.

A new and comprehensive National Curricular Framework for School Education, NCFSE 2020-21, will be developed by the NCERT.

Multilingualism and the power of language

The policy has emphasized mother tongue/local language/regional language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond. Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula. Other classical languages and literatures of India also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student. Students to participate in a fun project/activity on ‘The Languages of India’, sometime in Grades 6-8, such as, under the ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ initiative. Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level. Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country, and National and State curriculum materials developed, for use by students with hearing impairment.

Assessment Reforms

NEP 2020 envisages a shift from summative assessment to regular and formative assessment, which is more competency-based, promotes learning and development, and tests higher-order skills, such as analysis, critical thinking, and conceptual clarity. All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8 which will be conducted by the appropriate authority. Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be continued, but redesigned with holistic development as the aim.  A new National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development),  will be set up as a standard-setting body .

Equitable and Inclusive Education

NEP 2020 aims to ensure that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of the circumstances of birth or background. Special emphasis will be given on Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups(SEDGs) which include gender, socio-cultural, and geographical identities and disabilities.  This includes setting up of   Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups. Children with disabilities will be enabled to fully participate in the regular schooling process from the foundational stage to higher education, with support of educators with cross disability training, resource centres, accommodations, assistive devices, appropriate technology-based tools and other support mechanisms tailored to suit their needs. Every state/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school, to participate in art-related, career-related, and play-related activities. Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras

Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path

Teachers will be recruited through robust, transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based, with a mechanism for multi-source periodic performance appraisals and available progression paths to become educational administrators or teacher educators. A common National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022, in consultation with NCERT, SCERTs, teachers and expert organizations from across levels and regions.

School Governance

Schools can be organized into complexes or clusters which will be the basic unit of governance and ensure availability of all resources including infrastructure, academic libraries and a strong professional teacher community.

Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education

NEP 2020 envisages clear, separate systems for policy making, regulation, operations and academic matters. States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). Transparent public self-disclosure of all the basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability. The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF) through consultations with all stakeholders.

Higher Education

Increase GER to 50 % by 2035

NEP 2020 aims to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education including vocational education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035. 3.5 Crore new seats will be added to Higher education institutions.

Holistic Multidisciplinary Education

The policy envisages broad based, multi-disciplinary, holistic Under Graduate  education with flexible curriculacreative combinations of subjectsintegration of vocational education and  multiple entry and exit points with appropriate certification. UG education can be of 3 or 4 years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this period. For example,  Certificate after 1 year, Advanced Diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s with Research after 4 years.

An Academic Bank of Credit is to be established for digitally storing academic credits earned from different  HEIs so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.

Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to  be set up as models  of best multidisciplinary education of global standards in the country.

The National Research Foundation will be created as an apex body for fostering a strong research culture and building research capacity across higher education.

Regulation

Higher Education Commission of India(HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education. HECI to have  four independent verticals  – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC ) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding,  and National Accreditation Council( NAC) for accreditation. HECI will  function through faceless intervention through technology, & will have powers to penalise HEIs not conforming to norms and standards. Public and private higher education institutions will be governed by the same set of norms for regulation, accreditation and academic standards.

Rationalised Institutional Architecture

Higher education institutions will be transformed into large, well resourced, vibrant multidisciplinary institutions  providing  high quality teaching, research, and community engagement. The definition of university will allow a spectrum of institutions that range from Research-intensive Universities to Teaching-intensive Universities and Autonomous degree-granting Colleges. 

Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years and a stage-wise mechanism is to be established for granting graded autonomy to colleges. Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university.

Motivated, Energized, and Capable Faculty

NEP makes recommendations for motivating, energizing, and building capacity of  faculty thorugh  clearly defined, independent, transparent recruitment , freedom to design curricula/pedagogy, incentivising excellence, movement into institutional leadership. Faculty not delivering on basic norms will be held accountable

Teacher Education

A new and comprehensive National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education, NCFTE 2021, will be formulated by the NCTE in consultation with NCERT. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree .Stringent action will be taken against substandard stand-alone Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).

Mentoring Mission

A National Mission for Mentoring will be established, with a large pool of outstanding senior/retired faculty – including those with the ability to teach in Indian languages – who would be willing to provide short and long-term mentoring/professional support to university/college teachers.

Financial support for students

Efforts will be made to incentivize the merit of students belonging to SC, ST, OBC, and other SEDGs. The National Scholarship Portal will be expanded to support, foster, and track the progress of students receiving scholarships. Private HEIs will be encouraged to offer larger numbers of free ships and scholarships to their students.

Open and Distance Learning

This will be expanded to play a significant role in increasing GER. Measures such as online courses and digital repositories, funding for research, improved student services, credit-based recognition of MOOCs, etc., will be taken to ensure it is at par with the highest quality in-class programmes.

Online Education and Digital Education

A comprehensive set of recommendations for promoting online education consequent to the recent rise in epidemics and pandemics in order to ensure preparedness with alternative modes of quality education whenever and wherever traditional and in-person modes of education are not possible, has been covered. A dedicated unit for the purpose of orchestrating the building of digital infrastructure, digital content and capacity building will be created in the MHRD to look after the e-education needs of both school and higher education.

Technology in education

 An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF), will be created to provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology to enhance learning, assessment, planning, administration. Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes, support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning, administration and management

Promotion of Indian languages

To ensure the preservation, growth, and vibrancy of all Indian languages, NEP recommends setting an Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI), National Institute (or Institutes) for Pali, Persian and Prakrit, strengthening of Sanskrit and all language departments in HEIs,  and use mother tongue/local language as a medium of instruction in more HEI  programmes .

Internationalization of education will be facilitated through both institutional collaborations, and student and faculty mobility and allowing entry of top world ranked Universities to open campuses in our country.

Professional Education

All professional education will be an integral part of the higher education system. Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.

Adult Education

Policy  aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.

Financing Education

The Centre and the States will work together to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest.

Unprecedented Consultations

NEP 2020 has been formulated after an unprecedented process of consultation that involved nearly over 2 lakh suggestions from 2.5 lakhs Gram Panchayats, 6600 Blocks, 6000 ULBs, 676 Districts. The MHRD initiated an unprecedented collaborative, inclusive, and highly participatory consultation process from January 2015. In May 2016, ‘Committee for Evolution of the New Education Policy’ under the Chairmanship of Late Shri T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary, submitted its report.   Based on this, the Ministry prepared ‘Some Inputs for the Draft National Education Policy, 2016’.  In June 2017 a ‘Committee for the Draft National Education Policy’  was constituted under the Chairmanship of eminent scientist Padma Vibhushan, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, which submitted the Draft National Education Policy, 2019 to the Hon’ble Human Resource Development Minister on 31st May, 2019.  The Draft National Education Policy 2019  was uploaded on MHRD’s website and at ‘MyGov Innovate’ portal eliciting views/suggestions/comments of stakeholders, including public.

Kindly click here to see PDF


Cabinet

[Press Release dt. 29-07-2020]

[Source: PIB]

Hot Off The PressNews

Karnataka High Court: While deliberating upon the Government Orders issued by the State of Karnataka wherein restrictions/ ban was imposed on conduct of online classes by schools, the Division Bench of Abhay Srinivas Oka, CJ, and Nataraj Rangaswamy, J., expressing a prima facie view, held that the ban imposed by the State Government on the conduct of online classes infringes the Fundamental Rights of the children and therefore is violative of Arts. 21 and 21A of the Constitution.

The State Government had issued the impugned Orders on 15-06-2020 and 27-06-2020 via which they had imposed a ban on online classes from pre-school to Class 5th and from Class 1st to Class 10th respectively. Furthermore, the Court passed an interim direction thereby putting a stay on the impugned Orders. However, the Bench deemed it fit to clarify that the private schools should not interpret this decision as way to make online classes compulsory and collect extra fees for the same. Furthermore, those children who do not opt for online classes should not be deprived of coaching when the normal functioning of schools resume.


         [Source: The Times of India]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Ministry of Home Affairs has issued new guidelines for phased re-opening of areas outside Containment Zones. The following guidelines shall remain in force till July 31, 2020.

Here’s all you need to know about Unlock 2

  • In Phase 2 of the phased reopening of the Lockdown, all activities will be permitted in areas outside Containment Zones, except the following:
    • Schools, Colleges, educational and coaching institutes; Training institutions of the Central and State Governments will be allowed to function with effect from July 15, 2020.  SOP in this regard will be issued by the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India.
    • International air travel of passengers, except as  permitted by MHA
    • Metro Rail
    • Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places.
    • Social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions and other large congregations.

Dates of opening these activities will be decided separately after assessing the situation.

  • Domestic flights and passenger trains have already been allowed in a limited manner. Their operations will be further expanded in a calibrated manner.
  • Night Curfew shall continue to remain in force, between 10.00 pm and 5 am, except for essential activities.
  • Lockdown to continue to remain in force in Containment Zones till July 31, 2020.
    • Containment Zones will be demarcated by District Authorities after taking into consideration the guidelines of MoHFW.
    • Only essential activities shall be allowed in Containment Zones. Strict perimeter control to ensure that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services.
    • States/UTs may also identify Buffer Zones outside the Containment Zones, where news cases more likely to occur.
    • Within buffer zones, restrictions as considered necessary may be put in place by District authorities.
  • No restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/approval/e-permit will be required for such movements.
  • Movement by passenger trains and Shramik special trains; domestic passenger air travel; movement of Indian Nationals Starnded outside the country and of specified persons to travel abroad; evacuation of foreign nations; and sign-on and sign-off-of Indian seafarers will continue to regulated as per SOPs issued.

To read the guidelines in a detailed manner, please follow the link below:

GUIDELINES

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Ministry of Home Affairs issues new guidelines for phased re-opening of areas outside Containment Zones.

The following guidelines shall remain in force till 30th June, 2020.

Phased reopening of areas outside Containment Zone

In areas outside Containment Zone all activities will be permitted, except the following which will be allowed, with the stipulation of following SOPs to be prescribed by MoHFW, in a phased manner:

PHASE I

Following activities will be allowed with effect from 8th June, 2020.

  • Religious places/places of worship for public;
  • Hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services.
  • Shopping Malls

PHASE II

Schools, colleges, educational/training/coaching institutions, etc., will be opened after consultation with States/UTs. State Governments/UT administrations may hold consultations at institution level with parents and other stakeholders. Based on the feedback a decision on the reopening of these institutions will be taken in the month of July, 2020.

PHASE III

Based on the assessment of the situation, dates for re-starting the following activities will be decided:

  • International air travel of passengers, except as permitted by MHA
  • Metro Rail
  • Cinema Halls, gyms, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places.
  • Social/political/sports/entertainment/academic/cultural/religious functions and other large congregations.

Night Curfew:

Movement restricted between 9.00 PM to 5.00 AM throughout the country.

Lockdown limited to Containment Zones

Lockdown shall continue till 30th June, 2020.

Containment Zones will be demarcated by District Authorities after taking into consideration the guidelines of MoHFW.

Only essential activities shall be allowed in Containment Zones. Strict perimeter control to ensure that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services.

States/UTs may also identify Buffer Zones outside the Containment Zones, where news cases more likely to occur.

Within buffer zones, restrictions as considered necessary may be put in place by District authorities.

States/UTs, based on their assesment of the situation, may prohibit certain activities outside the Containment Zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary.

Unrestricted movement of persons and goods

  • There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/approval/e-permit will be required for such movements.
  • However, if a State/UT, based on reasons of public health and its assessment of the situation, proposes to regulate movement of persons, it will give wide publicity in advance regarding the restrictions to be placed on such movement, and the related procedures to be followed.
  • Movement by passenger trains and Shramik special trains; domestic passenger air travel; movement of Indian Nationals Starnded outside the country and of specified persons to travel abroad; evacuation of foreign nations; and sign-on and sign-off-of Indian seafarers will continue to regulated as per SOPs issued.
  • No State/UT shall stop movement of any type of goods/cargo for cross land-border under Treaties with neighbouring countries.

Protection of vulnerable persons

Persons above 65 years age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes.

Use of Aarogya Setu App

State/UT Governments shall not dilute these guidelines issued under the DMA, 2005, in any manner.

To read the guidelines in a detailed manner, please follow the link below:

GUIDELINES


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Order dated: 30-05-2020]

Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and C. Hari Shankar, J. dismissed a writ petition that sought modification of the Order dated 17-4-2020 issued by the Directorate of Education, Delhi (“DoE”), and direction to the schools not to charge the tuition fees from the students keeping in view the present situation of COVID 19 at least for the lockdown period in the interest of justice.

Backdrop & issue

Notably, in its Order dated 17-4-2020, the DoE took stock of the emergent situation that has arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as of the precautionary and restrictive measures imposed, by the Central and State government, to contain its spread, including the imposition of lockdown. While appreciating the efforts of private unaided schools in providing online education to students, the DoE took note of certain malpractices indulged in by some schools and it issued certain directions. Of these, the petitioner claimed to be aggrieved by the first direction whereby schools have been interdicted from charging any fee, except tuition fee, from parents. The petitioner complains against this exception. The writ petition, therefore, prayed that this exception be done away with, and the impugned Order dated 17-4-2020, be consequently modified, by granting complete exemption from payment of any fee, including tuition fee, at least for the period during which the presently existing lockdown continues to be in place. In the alternative, the writ petition prayed that the impugned Order dated 17-4-2020, be modified to the extent that tuition fees be charged “after an appropriate and reasonable time from the reopening of the schools”.

Decision & discussion

Rule 165 of Delhi School Education Rules

Dr N. Pradeep Sharma, Advocate for the petitioner, relied on the first proviso of Rule 165 of the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973, which, in a case in which the school is closed on the 10th day of the month (by which date fees are payable), defers the requirement of payment of fees to the date following the 10th day on which the school reopens. Schools, being presently closed, the petitioner sought to rely on this proviso to submit that tuition fees cannot be charged by schools, during the period of such closure.

Disagreeing, the High Court was of the opinion that so long as education is being imparted online, and students are availing the benefit thereof, schools cannot be treated as “closed”, so as to disentitle them from charging tuition fees. It was observed that ex facie, the first proviso merely defers the stage of payment, of school fees, in such cases, to the appropriate time, when such payment would become possible, and no more. Rule 165 does not deal with the chargeability of tuition fees, but only with the payability thereof. The Court held:

“Rule 165 cannot be pressed into service to seek exemption, from the requirement of payment of tuition fees, for the period during which the schools remain physically closed, and are imparting education through online platforms. Students would be mandatorily required to pay tuition fees during this period, and, in so requiring, we do not find the impugned Order, dated 17th April, 2020, of the DoE, deserving of interference in any manner.” 

Direction re financial hardship clause

Refuting the contention of the petitioner concerning the grounds of financial hardship, Ramesh Singh, Senior Standing Counsel for DoE, submitted that the impugned Order dated 17-4-2020, itself prohibits schools from denying ID and password, to students, for obtaining access to online learning platforms, merely because, “owing to financial crisis arising out of closure of business activities in the ongoing lockdown condition”, the parents of such students are unable to pay school fees. 

As per the High Court this is a wholesome provision. However, its misuse is to be checked. The Court directed that:

“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.”

Policy decision & ambit of issuing mandamus

Dr Sharma, for the petitioner, then relied on the residual clause of the guidelines framed by the Central Government under the Disaster Management Act and submitted that “necessary relief” in the form of exemption from payment of tuition fees may be directed to be provided. According to the Court, the contention was totally misconceived. It is not for the High Court to arrive at a policy decision, regarding the relief that is to be provided to persons affected by any disaster including the COVID-19 epidemic.

Dr. Sharma further submitted that unaided schools were, in all cases, run by trusts or societies, and, instead of charging fees from students, schools should, during the period of COVID lockdown, source their expenses from the monies available with their parent trusts, or societies. Outrightly rejecting the submission, the Court said:

“It is not possible for this Court to issue any mandamus, directing unaided schools – who, it is trite, received no financial aid from the executive and are, therefore, dependent on fees for their expenses – to delve into the monies available with their parent trusts, or societies, for defraying the expenses involved in payment of salaries, maintenance of their establishment and imparting of online curricular education.”

The Court was of the opinion that the impugned Order dated 17-4-2020 issued by the DoE strikes correct balance between the legitimate concerns of the institutions, and of parents/students, even while safeguarding the interests of parents who may find themselves in impecunious circumstances, owing to the lockdown presently in place, or due to closure of their businesses/establishments. The writ petition was accordingly dismissed. [Naresh Kumar v. Director of Education, WP(C) No. 2993, decided on 24-4-2020] 

COVID 19Fact ChecksNews

A social media message has been doing the rounds that as per a High Court order (the message does not specify which High Court), private schools cannot charge any fee for the summer vacation months. These could be any months between April to July when the school is closed. The petition number mentioned is CP No. 5812 of 2015 and the decision of the order as per is 5th March, 2018. Let us first read the message in its entirety and then check its veracity.

High Court Order

Cp. no 5812 of 2015_so(G-111) SE 2L/PS/HC/3-859/18

Date 05-03-2018

No private school can charge any fee (including transportation fees) for the holiday months that is April or May or June or July after the final exams. Some School charges monthly or annual fees for 12 months, when schools are closed for vacation for 1 or 2 mnths.

If any school charges fee then there will be action taken against that school to the extent that it may lose its licence. Parents can complain to the police. If fee has been paid in advance then one may ask for refund or adjust with the next month/s fee.

In case the school does not refund or adjust the parents may lodge a complaint with the police. If police does not listen then complaint at the CM window.

Wake up citizens. Wake up, don’t allow School Management’s to loot Parents.

Share this information with all your friends and family, Groups, Pl fwd as much as possible till it reaches all Pvt School Managements..

As per this message, any private school that does not comply with the order can lose their licence. The message also exhorts parents to complain to the police and even to the Chief Minister  if school authorities do not refund or adjust such fees.

We investigated this “Whatsapp” forward and found out that this order is not from India. A judgment with the same petition number and judgment date can be traced to our neighbour Pakistan. This case was filed at the Karachi Bench of the Sindh High Court in 2015. Many orders came in this case and final judgment was delivered in 2018.

A link to the judgment under the title ‘Judgment in CP 5812-2015 School Fees Case’ is listed on the official website of the Sindh High Court under the News and Notifications tab but on clicking on the link, the pdf of the judgment is not available, probably due to the non-maintenance of the website. However, copies of the judgment with the same petition number are available online on some educational websites and news websites as well.

Therefore, we can safely conclude that the above message is fake and does not apply to Indian schools and students. There is no bar on Indian schools for charging fees even for the months when the schools are closed for summer vacations.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

High Court of Jammu and Kashmir: A division bench comprising of Badar Durrez Ahmed, CJ., and Dhiraj Singh Thakur, J., recently dealt with a petition wherein the counsel for the petitioner approached the Court to discuss the issue of child abuse and frame directions to prevent it particularly in schools. He suggested that an officer be designated to each school, who is sensitized to these issues such as the lack of awareness amongst children, how children usually suffer in silence and knows how to deal with the issues.

The Court accepted the suggestions made by the petitioner and held that since no such action had been taken by the respondents to create awareness and appoint teachers as well as install helpline numbers for children to report abuse cases and for that purpose set up an appropriate Social Welfare Department that would prescribe a manner of creating awareness in schools regarding child abuse. [Shivan Mahajan v. State of J&K,  2018 SCC OnLine J&K 56, order dated 9.2.2018]