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Friday, September 17, 2021

Bombay HC seeks Maharashtra govt’s response to plea challenging resolution to reduce school fees by 15%

The Court also directed the state government to not take any coercive steps against the petitioner schools for not implementing the GR till further hearing for four weeks.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: August 27, 2021 12:26:51 pm
The Bombay High Court in Mumbai. (File)

The Bombay High Court recently directed the Maharashtra government to respond to a plea filed by CICSE and CBSE-affiliated schools challenging the August 12 Government Resolution (GR) directing private schools to reduce fees for the academic year 2021-22 by 15 per cent.

The Court also directed the state government to not take any coercive steps against the petitioner schools for not implementing the GR till further hearing for four weeks.

A division bench of Justices R D Dhanuka and R I Chagla, on August 25, was hearing a writ petition by the Association of Indian Schools (which runs CICSE and CBSE-affiliated private unaided schools) challenging the validity of the GR on various grounds.

Senior advocate Pravin Samdhani, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the state government appeared to have arbitrarily exercised executive powers under Article 162 of the Constitution while issuing the GR.

According to the GR, for parents who have paid the full fees, the school management will either adjust the additional fee (against the reduced 15 per cent) next month, quarter or academic year, or refund the same. In case of any dispute, complaints should be raised with the divisional fee regulatory or the divisional grievance redressal committees whose decision will be final. The GR is, however, not a mandatory directive to the schools.

The GR further stated that in case of non-payment of fees or pending fees, students should not be prevented from attending physical or online classes and exams and their results should not be withheld. “These orders will be applicable to schools of all boards and all mediums with immediate effect,” the GR read.

The school education department had issued the order citing the Supreme Court’s directive of May, this year, asking the Rajasthan government to charge 15 per cent lesser annual fees in lieu of unutilized facilities by students. The SC also had recently directed the Maharashtra government to consider the same order.

Samdhani submitted that provisions relating to fees being collected by private schools in Maharashtra are already covered under the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011, and therefore the state school education department cannot have issued such a GR contrary to the 2011 law by exercising executive powers under the Constitution.

He added that the same was an “overreach” by the state government, resulting in petitioner schools being aggrieved by the same and sought to quash and set aside the GR.

The petitioner association said that neither the ordinance is issued by the state nor provisions of the Fee Act, 2011, are amended and therefore the GR was not valid as per law.

Additional Government Pleader N C Walimbe, representing the state’s education department, sought two weeks’ time to respond to the petition, which the court granted. The court also asked the petitioner association to file a rejoinder in a week thereafter.

Posting further hearing to September 20, the bench noted, “Till next date, the respondents shall not take any coercive steps against the petitioners for not implementing the impugned GR dated August 12, 2021.”

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