The Delhi government’s order that private schools not collect any charges other than tuition fees until they reopen physically is coming under legal challenge by the schools, which state that the condition is not financially viable for them.
In a petition filed in the Delhi High Court, the Delhi Public School Society has submitted that across six of its branches in the capital — Vasant Kunj, Dwarka, Rohini, Vasant Vihar, Mathura Road, and RK Puram — there was a deficit of Rs 1,179.58 lakh between the schools’ income from tuition fees and their expenses from April to July.
It submitted that while these schools collected tuition fee amounting to Rs 4,872.69 lakh in these months, their expenses incurred in the same period was Rs 6,052.27 lakh. It has stated in the petition that these expenses include “providing online education and learning material to all students without any discrimination, including students whose parents are unable to pay the school fee, paying full monthly salary and existing emoluments to their staff, paying additional internet charges to their staff, paying website charges to have uninterrupted online classes for students, maintaining school building and infrastructure, paying electricity bills, property tax”.
It also said “the tuition fee collected by the petitioner’s schools is not even sufficient to meet even the salary of teachers”.
The plea was heard on September 17 and the next hearing is on October 9.
In April, the Delhi government’s education department had ordered that no fee other than tuition fee be charged by schools and that “annual and development charges can be charged from the parents on pro rata basis, only on monthly basis after completion of lockdown period”.
Once phased unlockdown began in July, many schools began asking for annual and development charges on pro rata basis. However, last month the education department issued a fresh order stating that the April order be complied with “in its totality” and “no amount other than tuition fee… shall be charged by any private un-aided recognised school”.
Citing financial difficulties and the need to perform all its functions, the DPS society has also challenged the basis of the order, stating, “The impugned order dated 18.4.2020 was passed in the wake of strict restrictions imposed upon movement due to lockdown, as a result of which some parents were unable to pay fee. However, the said restrictions have been relaxed subsequently by the central government and people are allowed to work and earn livelihood.”
However, defending the order, a government official said things have not necessarily changed for students and their parents. “From a child’s point of view, nothing has changed and that will continue till schools re-open physically. The situation with online classes that children had since March remains the same, so what is the justification for changing the status quo?… As for parents earning, there are reports of job losses, it is not that the situation has completely resumed.”
Following suit, other groups of schools are also preparing to challenge the order. Kamal Gupta, counsel for the Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools — an umbrella body of over 400 private schools in the city — said he will also be submitting a petition in the Delhi HC along similar lines. “In April, the government had stated that schools can charge annual and development charges on a pro-rata basis after the end of the lockdown… Now that everything is up and about, there is no reason for this restriction to continue,” he said.
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