The orders issued last year restrained private schools in the city from collecting annual charges and development fees from students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The High Court on Monday quashed two separate orders issued last year by the Delhi government restraining private schools in the city from collection of annual charges and development fees from students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice Jayant Nath said the orders “are prejudicial to the said schools and would cause an unreasonable restriction in their functioning”. The court directed that the amount payable by students would be paid in six monthly instalments from June 10 onwards.
The court’s direction came on plea by the Action Committee of Unaided Recognised Private Schools, a registered association with approximately 450 private unaided schools functioning in Delhi as its members.
The association had challenged the orders issued by the Department of Education, Delhi government on April 18, 2020 and August 28, 2020 in so far as it prevented private unaided schools from collecting annual charges and development fees even beyond the lockdown period and deferring it till physical opening of the schools.
They argued that even during the pandemic, the schools were directed and encouraged to take up online teaching and learning so that there was no discontinuity in imparting education to the children.
The annual charges relate to hostel running expenses, administrative and general expenses, rents, communication expenses, printing and stationery, electricity and water charges among others.
Development fees pertains to expenditure related to furniture, benches, chairs, wall panelling, green/black boards, computers, projectors and others items.
The association argued that the action of the Delhi government curtailed their rights to fix their own fees.
The Delhi government, on the other hand, argued that the lockdown was still in operation and, therefore, the two orders continued to be in operation.
It argued that “on account of acute financial pressure and stress on the general public owing to the pandemic and measures imposed to deal with it having not abated, in such a situation the attempt of the private school to burden the parents by seeking to recover amounts presuming that normal physical functioning has resumed is harsh, unfair and unjust”.
The High Court, however, was of the view that, “expenses like rents, taxes, travelling, conveyance, insurance charges, remuneration of auditors, repair and maintenance of building and maintenance of equipment, furniture and fixture are all expenses which will continue to be incurred by the schools irrespective of the physical shut down”.
“A perusal of the impugned orders does not show that the entire body of private unaided recognised schools has indulged in profiteering or charging of capitation fees by seeking to collect annual charges and development fees in the stated facts and circumstances,” the court said while quashing the two orders.
This article was originally published on The Hindu