School Fees (Image for representation only)
School Fees (Image for representation only)
Litigation News

Delhi HC dismisses plea seeking exemption from payment of tuition fee; Appreciates efforts of teachers in imparting education online

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court has dismissed a petition seeking complete exemption from payment of any fee, including tuition fee, to schools during the period of lockdown. (Naresh Kumar vs DoE)

Rejecting the Petitioner's stance that no tuition fee could be charged as the schools are "closed", the Court has stated,

..we cannot agree that, during the period of lockdown, or during the period when online education is being provided by the schools, and availed of, by students, tuition fees should be exempted. So long as schools are disseminating education online, they are certainly entitled to charge tuition fees.
Delhi High Court

The order was passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar in a petition by a lawyer, Naresh Kumar.

Assailing the Delhi Government's decision to allow private, unaided schools in the city to charge tuition fee from their students, the Petitioner submitted that due to the pandemic, all businesses/professionals/self-employed persons/and others were dependent upon their savings and were thus not in a position to pay the school fees of their wards even at the existing rates.

The Petitioner relied on Rule 165 of the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973 to state that in case a school is closed on the 10th day of the month i.e the date by which fees are payable, the requirement of payment of fees is deferred to the date following the 10th day on which the school reopens.

Since the schools were presently closed, the Petitioner contended that even the tuition fees could not be charged by schools.

The Court observed that the Petiitoner's assertion that parents were not in the position to pay even the tuition fee was, ex facie, the perception of the Petitioner, and none of the parents were before the Court.

Rejecting the Petitioner's reliance on Rule 165, the Court noted that Rule merely dealt with the payability of fees, and not deal with the chargeability of tuition fees.

"..when it refers to closure of schools, (it) contemplates a situation in which, owing to physical closure of the school, it is impossible to pay school fees by the due date. 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..", the Court said.

It nonetheless added that so long as education was being imparted online, and students were availing its benefit, schools could not be treated as “closed” so as to disentitle them from charging tuition fees.

Penning down its appreciation for the efforts of teachers and schools towards this end, the Court observed,

Judicial notice may be taken, of the painstaking efforts, made by schools and teachers, in providing education, and holding classes, through online platforms. 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. wholehearted appreciation, of the efforts of teachers, and schools, towards this end.
Delhi High Court

The Court further noted that the expenditure incurred while disseminating education online may, in fact be , be much greater than that of classroom teaching as the former includes the requirement of extensive infrastructural adjustments.

Having made all these arrangements, to state that schools should not be permitted to charge tuition fees, would be bordering on absurdity, the Court stated.

Adding that tuition fees covered expenditure towards salary, establishments and curricular activities, the Court said,

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. We, therefore, find that, in allowing unaided schools to charge tuition fees, whereby expenses incurred on salary, establishments and curricular activities may be defrayed by them, the impugned Order dated 17th April, 2020, strikes a wholesome balance, with which we are ill-inclined to interfere.
Delhi High Court

After perusing the policy decision, the Court also noted that interests of parents who might find themselves in impecunious circumstances owing to the lockdown, had also been taken care of.

In view of the above, the Court concluded that the Delhi Government's decision had struck the correct balance between the legitimate concerns of the institutions and of parents.

The Petition was thus dismissed.

The Petitioner was represented by Advocate N Pradeep Sharma.

Standing Counsel Ramesh Singh represented the Delhi Government.

Naresh Kumar vs DoE.pdf
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