10 June 2024


Judgments

High Court of Delhi

Naresh Kumar vs Director Of Education & Anr

MANU/DE/0977/2020

24.04.2020

Education

When schools are providing education online in view of present situation of COVID 19, parents could not be exempted from paying fees

The prayer clause in present writ petition is for issuance of an order or direction to the Respondents to further direct 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. Further, to Set aside/modify the order dated 17th April, 2020, passed by the Govt of National Capital Territory of Delhi, to the extent that the tuition fees be charged after an appropriate and reasonable time from the re-opening of the schools.

The writ petition proceeds to aver that "in view of the spread of COVID-19, all businesses/professionals/self-employed persons/and others have ceased to earn and are dependent upon their savings and are not in a position to pay the school fees of their wards even at the existing rates.

Significantly, the impugned Order, dated 17th April, 2020, notes the effort, on the part of certain private schools, to disseminate education online, as a welcome step, aimed at ensuring that students do not suffer, in their curricular activities during the 2020-2021 academic session. The effort in physically teaching students, in a regular classroom, cannot even remotely be compared with the effort that the teacher has to expend, in providing online education. It is a matter of common knowledge that, in doing so, the effort required to be put in, by the teacher, and the strain to which the teacher subjects herself, or himself, is tremendous, and the efforts of teachers - referred to, often, as the noblest among all noble professions - require to be commended in the highest terms.

Providing e-education is no child's play, and involves the requirement of extensive infrastructural adjustments, including all incidental expenses in arranging access to online platforms, over which education could be provided, and in actually providing such education. To suggest that, having made all these arrangements, schools should not be permitted to charge tuition fees, would be bordering on absurdity.

The impugned Order, dated 17th April, 2020, has correctly analysed the situation, by distinguishing between expenditure incurred by schools "on co-curricular activities, sports activities, transportation, other development -related activities, etc." and expenditure incurred on "salary, establishments and curricular activities". Fees relatable to expenditure incurred on the former category of activities, i.e. co-curricular activities, sports activities, transportation and other development related activities, stand completely exempted by virtue of the impugned Order, dated 17th April, 2020, and no school can charge any fees relatable thereto.

The impugned Order, however, does not exempt students from the requirement of payment of tuition fees, for the simple reason that tuition fees cover salary, establishments and curricular activities, the expenditure where on continues to be incurred by schools, even during the period of lockdown, and before they are able to resume normal work. Money does not grow on trees, and unaided schools, who received no funds from the Government, are entirely dependent on fees, to defray their daily expenses. The impugned Order dated 17th April, 2020, strikes a wholesome balance, with which we are ill-inclined to interfere.

No direction, therefore, can be issued, to unaided/private schools, not to charge tuition fees during the period of the lockdown, consequent on the COVID pandemic, and to source the funds, for meeting expenses relatable to salaries of their staff, maintenance of their establishment, and providing of online education, from the monies available with their parent trusts/societies.

The impugned Order, dated 17th April, 2020, passed by the DoE, therefore, strikes the 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 is, therefore, completely bereft of substance. There is no reason to entertain this writ petition which is, therefore, dismissed.

Tags : Tuition fees Charging of Legality

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