Private unaided schools in Maharashtra, who had challenged a government resolution (GR) to curb fee hikes in academic year 2020-21, have agreed not to debar students whose parents have not paid the ‘increased component’ if any, over the preceding year. Such students will be allowed to attend classes, online or offline, and exams in the ongoing academic year, in light of the Covi-19 induced disruptions.
The Association of Indian Schools and other petitioners including the Unaided School Forum had challenged the May 8, 2020 GR which barred private unaided schools from hiking fees for the 2020-21 academic year. Government had cited the economic and financial crisis prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic as justification for the GR.
In June last year, the Bombay high court had stayed the GR and the Supreme Court had on a plea by the state sent back the matter for expeditious disposal. The association said its members had already fixed and implemented the fees for 2020-21 before the issuance of the May 2020 GR. The HC bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni disposed of the petitions saying it would vacate the stay in its order now. A detailed order will be made available later. The GR is to operate prospectively, the court was told on Monday by the state. Counsel Harish Salve, Milind Sathe, Pravin Samdani, Prateek Seksaria and Nivit Srivastava for unaided schools argued that the GR, “being prospective” cannot apply to them.
However, the state argued that it is at liberty to conduct an enquiry, either suo motu or on a complaint against a school if fees for 2020-21 are not determined under provisions of the fee law. The state said the schools are relying on an August 2019 amendment to the law, giving them wider powers on fee fixation, which they could not have as by then the academic year for 2019-20 had already begun.
While staying the GR last year, the HC had said it was “mindful of the difficulties faced by parents in these testing times” and had asked school managements “may consider providing option” to pay fees in “reasonable” instalments and online. During the subsequent hearings, the HC had directed private unaided schools who are members of an association that challenged the decision to curb fee hikes in 2020-21 to provide details of when exactly they had increased or set fees for the current academic year.
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