Calcutta High Court
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No coercive action against students who have not paid fees if Schools have insisted on 100% fee payment: Calcutta HC

In an interim order passed last month, the Court had directed that students need to only pay 80% of school fees by July 31. On Monday, the Court was told that some schools are still insisting on 100% payment of the fee.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Calcutta High Court yesterday refused a prayer for further relaxation in the payment school fees amid the pandemic which would have been a deviation from the Court's earlier directions issued in July (Vineet Ruia v. State of West Bengal).

The Bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Moushumi Bhattacharya was hearing a petition seeking discounts on school fees in view of reduced maintenance expenditure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its July 21 interim order, the Court had directed the remittance of 80% of dues payable by July 31. In response to this, an additional prayer had been raised, seeking a further reduction in payment.

While yesterday’s order specifically rejected the prayer for relaxation in payment, an extension in time for paying the fees was allowed.

The Court was also informed that some schools had not allowed the payment of 80% of the fee as directed earlier but rather that they were inisting on the payment of 100% of the school fee.

In response, the Court has restrained such schools from taking any “coercive action” against the students who have not yet remitted the fee for this reason.

"If there are any schools which have not opened up windows for payment of the 80 per cent of the fees till July 31, 2020 by the parents or students, such schools will not be entitled to take coercive action against the students or to exclude the students from the virtual classes or taking part in the virtual examinations", reads the order.

To ascertain each private unaided school's accounts and fees due, the Court has also constituted a committee comprising of Professor Suranjan Das, Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University (subject to his assent), and a nominee of the Advocate-General.

The Advocate General has been tasked with choosing the second member of the Committee from among the recently retired heads of the State Higher Secondary Board or Secondary Board.

Additionally, the State, through the Advocate General and the Additional Solicitor General, has been asked to collate the details of schools likely to be affected by the Court’s final judgment, including the schools already impleaded.

The Court further granted associations that sought to be impleaded to proceedings at hand the liberty to address the Court without being formally impleaded as parties.

One of the schools raised concern that a similar issue is being adjudicated in other fora. Therefore, the High Court has requested the lower courts and other fora against admitting suits governing the issues being decided by it.

"There cannot be an omnibus injunction issued by court. However, it is hoped that the matters are not complicated by persons approaching various fora. Since the High Court of the State is in seisin in the matter, the other fora who are approached should be cautious in receiving the actions", the Court said.

The case is expected to be taken up today, for the formal constitution of the Committee.

Advocate Priyanka Agarwal appeared for the petitioner. Advocate General Kishore Dutta was assisted by Advocate Sayan Sinha in making submissions for the State.

Other respondents in the matter were represented by Advocates Anirban Ray, Aniruddha Mitra and Sabyasachi Choudhury

Read the Order here:

Vineet Ruia v. State of West Bengal - Interim Order dated August 17, 2020.pdf
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