The Bombay High Court on Tuesday sought a response from the state government and the Fee Regulatory Authority on the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by BJP MLA from Kandivali (East) Atul Bhatkhalkar and others, seeking strict implementation of school fees law, earlier orders to enable fee payment in instalments and not to debar any students from either online or physical classes over fee arrears or non-payment.
The plea also sought educational institutions to reduce 50 per cent fees of students enrolled under the Right to Education (RTE) Act due to the pandemic in lieu of facilities not utilised by the students during academic years 2020-21 and 2021-22.
During the hearing, a division bench of Justices S P Deshmukh and G S Kulkarni was informed by Bhatkhalkar and others, through senior advocate Birendra Saraf, that several parents in western suburbs of the city had complained about aided and unaided schools debarring their children from attending online classes due to non-payment of fees. The PIL has argued that as schools were functioning virtually, they are not incurring overhead costs, which are covered under the fees recovered from students and, hence, the institutions should not be allowed to collect the full fees.
The MLA and others also urged the state government to direct the school management to consider representation from parents in respect of difficulties in payment of annual fees for academic years 2020-21 and 2021-22 with “sympathy” on a “case-to-case basis”.
The plea also demanded that schools should not withhold the name of students aspiring for class 10 or 12 examinations or any scholarships due to non-payment of fees/arrears for the academic year 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Additional Government Pleader Geeta Shastri, for the state government, submitted the state school education department on June 7 has issued a notification through which a Divisional Fee Regulatory Committee has been constituted. The HC sought an affidavit from the state government setting out the information pertaining to the functioning of the authority and issues addressed by it. The PIL will be heard next on June 22.