The Punjab government on Friday challenged a verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in the matter relating to payment of school fee for the lockdown period. The state government, in a Letter Patents Appeal (LPA), has sought a stay on the operation of the single judge order of June 30 “in the interest of justice and fair play”. In his ruling of June 30, a single judge of the High Court had given relief to the private schools by allowing them to collect fee irrespective of whether or not they were offering online classes.
The government earlier had allowed only those schools to collect tuition fee which were conducting online classes. While all the schools had been also asked to defer the last date for depositing admission fee, the government had prohibited the schools from taking other charges like transport, building expenses during the period of closure. The orders were challenged before the High Court by various school managements, including Independent Schools Association and Punjab Schools Welfare Association. While the HC order granted relief to the schools, it had caused major heartburn among the parents of school-going children.
CM Amarinder Singh too had expressed concern over private schools charging fee from students even when no online/offline classes were held in the wake of the Covid lockdown. The matter had come up for discussion at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting and Advocate General Atul Nanda had been asked to file the LPA in the High Court.
The LPA points out that the private schools, despite pleading financial hardship and incapacity to meet their expenditures/charges, did not place on record any evidence or material to prove the same. It was further noted that the High Court, in its ruling, had completely ignored the fact that the government of Punjab had been constrained to issue orders directing private schools to charge only “tuition fee” (in respect of online education provided by them), in order to mitigate the emergent hardship faced by the parents due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The impugned order and judgment, according to the LPA, provides no mechanism to check and verify the “actual
expenditure” while allowing the schools to charge their “actual expenditures”.
“Thus, there are practical difficulties in the enforceability and implementation of the impugned order and judgment,” it said.
Pointing out that the order of the state government was motivated not only by an emergent situation but was only of a temporary import and effect, the LPA further noted that the High Court had also completely ignored the fact that respective High Courts of other states, which had also issued similar if not identical orders, had not interfered in this regard.
The LPA observed that “in a similar matter involving challenge to the identical order issued by the government of Haryana, a Coordinate Bench has merely adjourned the case to September without granting any interim relief or otherwise to the private schools of Haryana as of now”.
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