Private educational institutions running schools and their associations told the Bombay High Court on Thursday that a May 8 government resolution (GR), which restrained them from collecting increased fees for the academic year 2020-21, was invalid, as the Maharashtra government was acting beyond its authority and the restrictions put forth had no statutory backing.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a clutch of pleas filed by educational institutions, including Association of Indian Schools (which runs ICSE and CBSE-affiliated schools), Global Education Foundation, Kasegaon Education Trust and Sant Dnyaneshwar Mauli Sanstha.
In a circular issued on March 30, the state school education department had said that private schools cannot compel parents to pay fees during the lockdown. Aggrieved by the decision, educational institutions across Maharas-htra had approached the HC.
On June 26, in a relief to private schools, the HC had stayed until further orders the May 8 GR barring schools from hiking fees for the academic year 2020-21 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thereafter, the state had approached the Supreme Court. However, the SC sent the plea back to the HC for disposal.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the schools, said on Thursday that the GR was arbitrary, issued in the absence of any statutory power and is violative of Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution to practice any profession or business. While arguing that the Disaster Management Act cannot be used arbitrarily during a pandemic, Salve gave examples while saying that the government cannot ask big companies to pay it a few crores but can appeal to them.
“We do not want Covid-19 to infect the body of our Constitution. The Fee Regulation Act is not ave-rse to Disaster Management Act and no further restrictions were required to be put on private scho-ols,” Salve said. The state will reply to the petitions on October 12.