The Gujarat High Court has ruled that the private schools providing online classes in the State can charge tuition fee while barring them from charging any other fee like transport, stationary etc till the schools are shut owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The High Court has quashed a government order which prohibited private schools from collecting tuition fee until they reopened, saying such a fiat will force smaller schools to shut down.
The High Court said schools can charge tuition fee which will cover expenditure on salary, establishment and curricular activities and maintenance.
In a decision on July 31, uploaded on the High Court’s website on Wednesday, the division bench of the High Court set aside three clauses of a government resolution (GR) issued on July 16 amid the pandemic.
Balance to be struck
A “balance has to be struck between providing children a reasonable education and allowing the schools to stay afloat,” a division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardilwala said.
“Not allowing schools to collect fee will force many smaller schools to close down permanently while not providing education to students for long will impact their cognitive and social development,” it observed.
It said parents should realise that online education is not a futile effort on the part of the schools while at the same time, schools should be aware of the economic instability being faced by parents.
Quashing the relevant clauses in the GR, the court asked the government to “make all possible endeavour to strike a balance to protect the interest of the parents and the managements of the private unaided schools”.
“The adverse impacts of the situation created by the pandemic need to be shouldered by all stakeholders, and the community as a whole needs to be united in its fight,” the court said.
“The resolution and the actions of the State have the effect of dividing sections of society,” it said.
If smaller private schools close down, parents of students will be forced to cough up higher fee at bigger schools, the court pointed out.
The GR barred collection of tuition fee even when schools were offering online classes. Unions of private schools had challenged the government’s order on the ground that the private schools were required to pay salaries to the teachers and other staff even while they were shut.