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SC dismisses parents’ plea for moratorium on school fees

Parents from many states came together and moved the Supreme Court seeking a moratorium on school fees. The Supreme Court asked them to withdraw their pleas and file the same in their respective high courts, as it cannot pass an omnibus order because the situation is different in all states and districts...

Parents of school-going children from Odisha, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Maharashtra, filed an appeal at the apex court seeking a moratorium on school fees, as no physical classes are going on.

The plea

The plea read, “the Petitioners belonging to different states of the country have come together being constrained to approach this court seeking inter alia the protection of the fundamental right to life as well as education guaranteed under the Constitution of India, 1950 which the children & students enrolled up to the Class 12 of various Indian states are being deprived of due to supervening factors namely, the ongoing pandemic- COVID-19 period…”.

Concerning this, Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde remarked that “the problem with every State is different. Parties are involving the jurisdiction of this court as an omnibus case. But these are fact-intensive situations in each State and district.”

So the Supreme court on 10th July 2020, asked all the parents demanding a moratorium on school fees for as long as the COVID-19 restrictions prevail, to appeal for the same in their respective High courts. The bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices R Subhash Reddy and A S Bopanna has observed that the situation varies from district to district and state to state, so the SC cannot pass an ‘omnibus’ order.

Drawn into so many things

The CJI also pointed out that the Supreme Court ‘gets drawn into so many things’ like cases related to the release of prisoners, migrant workers, etc., especially during the pandemic. Chief Justice Bobde also stated that all the parties entreat the jurisdiction of the Supreme court in countless issues, and if the judicial orders do not match their expectations, they go on expressing their disappointment. “It will involve a stroke of genius if everybody’s problems can be solved,” commented Chief Justice Bobde. Depicting the school’s interests, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Sunil Gupta, said that there was a difference of opinions and views among all the parents across the country. Mr Sibal added that the school policies differed from district to district, and Mr Gupta opined that the policy should be left at the Executive’s disposal.

Advocates Mayank Kshirsagar and Balaji Srinivasan claimed that the High Court of   Punjab & Haryana has assented to the hike in school fees. So the Supreme Court has suggested them to file an appeal against such an order by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The parents through the plea requested the Central and State governments to direct all the private aided or unaided schools to charge the school fees proportionate to the actual expenditure incurred while conducting online classes and that, no extra fees should be charged from the students starting from 1st April till the physical classes reopen.

The pandemic

The dreadful pandemic has already inflicted a lot of unbearable issues and burdens on parents, many of whom have lost their jobs or a major part of their income. Adding to their troubles, many schools are known to have allegedly increased their fees and to be harassing the parents to pay the whole quarterly fees in advance. Despite the non-functioning of schools, the fees have been raised, and the parents fear that this practice may continue in the future.

The COVID-19 situation was declared as a pandemic all over the world by the WHO on 25th March 2020. Soon after this, the Indian government declared a nation-wide lockdown suspending the activities of almost all sectors including the educational sector, bringing the country to a stand-still. As a consequence, a large number of people lost their jobs, and the only source of income for many people was cut off, dragging their families into miserable sufferings. Most of the private educational institutions resorted to the virtual mode of teaching, to continue the process of learning.

Also read : Supreme Court stays farm laws, forms four-member panel to hear farmers’ grievances

But not all students have been able to avail these facilities due to the lack of internet and technological support. Under such circumstances, threatening and demanding higher school fees than usual without any utility, is unethical. Even though the Supreme court cannot get involved in the case directly, it should compel the state governments and High courts to administer equitable rules which would not exploit the weaker sections in this time of crisis.

Shalini Koppula
Hi, I am Shalini Koppula, a student of Xavier law school Bhubaneswar. I'm a socially driven writer and an enthusiastic reader. I want to advocate optimism through my work, and layout peace and love!

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