Calcutta High Court
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Students should be given unconditional access to online classes until Aug 15: Calcutta HC directs 112 private unaided schools [Read Order]

None of the 112 schools involved should discontinue making online courses available to students "unconditionally" till Aug 15, reads the order, which also directs the payment of 80% student dues, as on Jul 31, by Aug 15

Meera Emmanuel

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday issued various interim directions regarding the access to online classes conducted by private unaided schools and the fee payment for the same in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown (Vineet Ruia v. State of West Bengal & Ors).

Inter alia, the 112 private, unaided schools in the matter were directed to unconditionally allow students access to online classes until August 15.

The Court has also ordered that no student can be barred from attending online examinations until August 15. Further, it has been directed that dues payable by students until July 31 would have to be cleared to the extent of 80% by August 15.

While hearing a plea raising grievance over the demand by private unaided schools for the payment of school fees without any relaxation on account of the COVID-19 lockdown, the Court was told that not all schools have paid the salaries due to their staff.

After hearing submissions made on Tuesday on behalf aggrieved parents, the State and some of the schools concerned, the Bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Moushumi Bhattacharya issued the following directions:

  • For the moment, none of the 112 schools involved should discontinue making online courses available to any of its students, unconditionally till August 15, 2020.

  • None of the 112 schools will prohibit any of the students from participating in the online examinations, if any, till August 15, 2020.

  • These directions are applicable for all classes and all courses.

  • By August 15, 2020, the outstanding dues of each student, as at July 31, 2020, have to be cleared to the extent of 80%.

  • Those already debarred from online courses or online examinations will be restored to their previous status.

The Court added that, "It is hoped that if substantial payments are made on behalf of the students who are in default, the relevant schools will not discontinue the online courses for any meagre shortfall in payment.

The petitioner before the Court represented the parents of over 15,000 students enrolled in the 112 schools. The Court was told that these schools were demanding regular fees from the students although the schools have not been functioning for the last four months.

The Court was also told that students whose fees have not been cleared were barred from participating in the online classes or the online exams on this ground.

The petitioner had urged for appropriate discounts to be given in fee payment, given the reduced costs of running the schools over the recent months.

The State, through Advocate General Kishore Dutta, told the Court that it had issued several notifications asking private, unaided schools to refrain from increasing fees. These notifications also urged the schools to give concessions in fee payment amid the lockdown, the Court was told.

The Court further recorded the State's submissions that not all such schools have paid the salaries of their employees, including the teachers. Some of the schools who appeared before the Court during the hearing added that contractual employees may not have been paid, while their regular employees have been paid.

The Court noted that all the concerned schools have not yet been impleaded as parties, nor had the concerned Boards to which these schools were affiliated.

As such, the Bench directed the petitioner to serve copies of the order upon the schools and the school Boards so that they may appear before the Court and make submissions.

The State has also been permitted to file an affidavit in the matter. The case will be taken up next on the second Monday of August.

Advocate Priyanka Agarwal appeared for the petitioner. Advocate General 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:

Vineet Ruia v. State of West Bengal & Ors.- July 21 order.pdf
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