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Private schools hail Delhi HC order, parents say ‘goes against lakhs of students’

Through the course of the past year, schools have been complaining about only being allowed to collect tuition fee which, they say, leaves them without enough resources to run their schools, even while physically closed.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: June 1, 2021 9:30:30 am
The judgment had read, “There is no finding recorded by the impugned orders that the collection of Annual Charges and Development Fees tantamounts to profiteering or collection of capitation fees by private unaided recognised schools.”

The Delhi High Court’s judgment on private school fees on Monday came as a matter of relief to schools — and stress for parents. The court has said private unaided schools in Delhi can collect annual school fees from students as fixed, but by providing deduction of 15% on that amount for 2020-2021 in lieu of unutilised facilities during the lockdown.

Through the course of the past year, schools have been complaining about only being allowed to collect tuition fee which, they say, leaves them without enough resources to run their schools, even while physically closed.

“Schools cannot run without money, it is needed for basic maintenance and payments, and for development, infrastructure, and innovation. The Delhi government orders were extremely restricting. We appreciate the financial difficulties being faced by parents and in that regard, the judgment is very balanced, taking these into account and giving a 15% discount… A very important matter which gives maximum relief… is that the court has recognised that schools have autonomy in fee collection as long as they’re not involved in profiteering,” said S K Bhattacharya, president of the Action Committee of Unaided Private Recognised Schools which was the petitioner in the matter.

The judgment had read, “There is no finding recorded by the impugned orders that the collection of Annual Charges and Development Fees tantamounts to profiteering or collection of capitation fees by private unaided recognised schools.”

Some schools, however, are considering not collecting annual charges for the 2020-2021 session. Low-cost schools catering to lower and lower-middle class were the worst hit in the last year.

Sushil Dhankar, who runs one such school in Sangam Vihar, said the management has decided not to collect the charges for the session gone by. “Last year, we ended up waiving 2-3 months of tuition fees for most parents since they couldn’t afford to pay. I have decided not to collect annual charges for the last year and to only collect it for the current 2021-2022 session as schools like ours have a high attrition rate; we might lose a large number of students. Last year, we lost 35-40% of students because of economic distress. We had to make difficult choices by relieving low-performing teachers to maintain the teacher-student ratio,” he said.

According to the judgment, schools cannot debar students from offline or online classes, or withhold exam results for non-payment of fees or these instalments. “If any individual request is made by the parent/ward finding it difficult to remit annual fees for the academic year 2020-21 in the above terms, the school management to consider such representation on a case-to-case basis sympathetically,” it reads.

Despite these concessions, there is discontent among a section of parents. “The court, with this one-sided order, has not taken into account the financial crisis parents are facing due to the pandemic. The order isn’t even against the Directorate of Education or parents, but against lakhs of students. Parents will have to pay a huge amount in the course of six months. Despite what the judgment says, we will see schools harassing students by withholding transfer certificates and results because of arrears,” said Aprajita Gautam of the Delhi Parents’ Association.

“It will be a huge burden on parents, especially because we’ve been in lockdown again. We have two children in the school and our family’s card-making business is seeing a big slump at this time,” said a parent from DPS Mathura Road.

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