Calcutta High Court
Calcutta High Court
Litigation News

School Fees amid COVID-19: Calcutta HC directs parents to remit 80% of fees demanded for August and September [Read Order]

The Unaided Private Schools party to the proceedings have also been requested to form committees to decide the quantum of fee reductions possible.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

While hearing pleas seeking the reduction of school fees charged by private schools in light of pandemic-induced financial constraints and reduced infrastructure maintenance expenses, the Calcutta High Court yesterday issued a series of directions (Vineet Ruia v. State of West Bengal).

The directions and observations made by the Court yesterday include the following:

  • For the interim, parents have been directed to remit 80% of the fee demanded by the schools for the months of August and September.

  • In the event such fees are deposited, online classes should be made available to the students irrespective of whether such facilities had been disrupted earlier.

  • Parents who have arrears of fees may make good the amounts due by September 14.

  • An order on allowing school fee reductions cannot be issued "across the board" considering varied fixed costs and expenses between schools.

  • Schools may be asked to set up Committees comprising three senior teachers and three parents, chaired by the School head to consider the issue of fee reductions.

  • Suggestions on fee reductions should be made voluntarily by these Committees, which may be formally constituted at the next hearing.

The Bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Moushumi Bhattacharya also recorded its appreciation for the voluntary fee reductions that all unaided private schools had provided to the parents "without exception."

"It is heartening to note that almost without exception the schools which have participated at today’s hearing have said that they have entertained, on a case-to-case basis, appeals by the parents of the students who have been financially hit or have lost their jobs or have been unable to pay the fees whether in full or at all", the Court said.

At the previous hearing of the matter, the Court had constituted a two-member Committee to ascertain each private unaided schools' accounts and academic fees.

After the Committee submitted its Preliminary Report to the Court, the matter was heard yesterday.

The Bench noted with concern the irregularities in the accounts submitted to the Court-constituted Committee. Some schools failed to furnish a month-wise break up of the expenses incurred while others had questionable heads of income, to which the Committee had expressed reservations.

The Court said,

"Certain views have been expressed in the preliminary report furnished by the two-member committee pertaining to bus charges, electricity charges and the like. The various areas referred to in the report should be addressed by the individual schools to justify the amounts claimed to have been expended under the various heads."

The schools have been directed to file the account statements (earlier furnished to the Committee) before the Court in sealed covers, to maintain confidentiality.

The petition is expected to be taken up next on September 14, 2020.

Read the Order here:

Vineet Ruia v. State of West Bengal - Interim Order dated September 8, 2020.pdf
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