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Punjab and Haryana HC: Private schools can charge fee only if students offered online classes daily

The court also directed the school managements to file within two weeks the balance sheets for the last seven months.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula | Updated: October 2, 2020 4:10:36 am
Reopening of schools: Punjab edu dept recommends classes for Std IX-XII for three hours a day, Amarinder to take final callStudents may attend schools/institutions only with written consent of the parents. (File photo)

THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court Thursday ruled that private schools in Punjab and Haryana can charge the tuition fee only if they offered online classes on regular basis during the lockdown period. The court also directed the school managements to file within two weeks the balance sheets for the last seven months.

“We direct that tuition fee would be charged only if the students are offered online classes on day-to-day basis during lockdown period,” a division bench of Justices Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu said in the order.

The High Court, in orders passed for Punjab on June 30 and which were extended to Haryana on July 27, had allowed all private schools to collect admission and tuition fee from students regardless of whether they were holding online classes or not. The schools had also been allowed to recover only “genuine expenditure” including “actual transport charges.”

Both Punjab and Haryana governments had then challenged the decision passed by two separate single benches. The Punjab government Thursday was represented by Advocate General Atul Nanda while Additional Advocate General Deepak Balyan represented Haryana government.

After hearing of the arguments, the bench said it was a case where the principle of quid pro quo will be applicable.

The court in the order also said that all the teachers and staff members, whether permanent or non-permanent, will be entitled to their regular salaries, which they were getting before the lockdown was initiated. It also barred the schools from collecting any transport charges. “Since the students are not being transported to and fro due to lockdown, the school management shall not charge any transportation charge till further orders,” the order read.

Regarding the balance sheets, the bench directed the school managements to get them verified by a Chartered Accountant before submitting the same in the court. The case has been listed for a final hearing on November 20.

The matter had initially reached High Court after the two state governments passed different orders putting restrictions on private schools with regard to collection of fee amounts. In case of Punjab, the bench had allowed the schools to collect other charges for the lockdown period, but had restrained them from increasing the fee for the ongoing academic session (2020-21) and ordered them to adopt the same fee structure as of previous year.

Haryana government had issued a notification restraining private schools from collecting the enhanced fee and other funds from schoolchildren for the lockdown period. The government had also told schools to only collect monthly tuition fee from only those who are capable of paying, and not demand other charges like building fund, maintenance fund, admission charges and computer charges in wake of the Covid-19 situation.

A number of schools and their associations had challenged the instructions passed by the government, resulting in the passing of orders by singe bench. More than 87 schools in different districts of Haryana had argued that the authorities cannot prevent the schools from charging the fee at enhanced rate and submitted the schools have been put under grave financial constraints due to the orders.

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