THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court on Wednesday asked the Chandigarh Administration to talk to private schools on the issue of fee payment and take an appropriate call in this regard before May 22.
“Reply be filed within one week from today with an advance copy to the counsel for the petitioners. It is hoped that taking into account the urgency, the respondent-Authority shall take an appropriate call by the next date of hearing, after hearing the petitioners,” read the order passed by Justice Nirmaljit Kaur.
The Independent Schools Association of Chandigarh and managements of seven different schools have challenged an order passed by the UT Administration in March asking them to reschedule the last date for deposit of fee and funds for the academic session 2020-21, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, to a date at least one month after the reopening of the schools. The schools have been warned of strict action in case of non-compliance of the order passed by the UT department of education, their petition stated.
Advocate Aashish Chopra for the petitioners argued that the order is without any basis and jurisdiction. “The institutions are bound to pay and disburse the salary of the teachers and other staff, for which they need to generate funds which is possible only through the fees, to be paid by the students,” Chopra submitted.
It was also argued that there is nothing to show that the parents of the children are not able to pay the fees or they have no source of income during the lockdown period. “The order dated March 30, 2020 read with Memo dated April 7, 2020 has in effect rendered the collection of fee impossible by the schools during the period the premises of the schools are closed as it has given leeway to the parents to not deposit the fee before at least one month after reopening of the schools, which date is uncertain and consequently, vast majority of parents are not depositing the fee…,” reads the petition.
The Association and the school managements in the petition said they are conscious of the difficult times but schools are expected to continue discharge their financial obligations including disbursement of salaries to the staff and also disseminating education to the students through online technology.
“The respondents seem to have lost sight of material aspects inter alia, that almost all the private schools, including the Petitioners Schools herein, have taken steps to conduct classes through online technology, which in itself is a painstaking effort for the school managements and the staff members of the schools,” the petition reads, adding they also have other financial obligations including repayment of loan, tax and insurance.