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Two circulars issued by the State, on April 24 and 28, had imposed restrictions on collection of fees by school managements in view of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Karnataka High Court on Thursday has issued notice in a petition seeking a direction to the state government to allow collection of 50% of school fees for the academic year 2020-21 and to demand payment of pending fees of the previous academic years [Karnataka Private Schools Committee v. State of Karnataka and ors].
Justice R Devadas issued notice to the state government and its instrumentalities.
The Single Judge Bench further directed the State to file its statement of objections within two weeks, considering the urgency of the plea.
The plea mainly contended that two circulars issued by the State, on April 24 and 28, had imposed restrictions on collection of fees by school managements in view of the COVID-19 crisis.
This, however, had put the managements of unaided private schools in severe financial hardship, which in turn led to difficulty in paying salaries to teaching and non-teaching staff.
The plea also reads,
"What needs to be stated is that the Private Institutions are being mandated to pay the salaries of the teachers in accordance with the rules and whereas the Institutions are not being allowed to charge the fees simultaneously."
Though the government’s circulars allowed for payment of the current academic year’s fees in instalments, due to the absence of any specific period to pay these instalments, only 1 to 2% of parents have paid the fees, the petitioner organisation claimed.
The plea further submitted that currently, schools are conducting classes via online mode. Nonetheless, the quality of education has not been compromised, avers the petition.
In this regard, the plea says,
"It is submitted that while going for online education, the institutions are incurring higher expenditure than what has been prescribed under the Rules. The institution apart from paying the salary to the teachers are required to pay for having the infrastructure and staff including technician exclusively for online education."
The plea also relies on the provisions of Karnataka Educational Institutions (Classifications, Regulation and Prescription of Curricular, etc.) Rules, 1995, which lay down that tuition fees charged by private unaided institutions shall be commensurate with the expenditure incurred towards the salary of staff and the quality of education provided by the institution.
The petition also raises concern over the fact that many parents have not even the fees for previous academic years, as the circular mentions nothing about uncleared tuition dues.
Thus, the petition prays for quashing of the state government issued circulars dated April 24 and 28.
By way of interim relief, the petitioner seeks collection of the unpaid fees from the previous academic years as well as 50% of the fees for the current academic year before September 1.
[Read plea and order here]