The Supreme Court on May 3 directed 36,000 private unaided schools of Rajasthan to charge 15 per cent less annual fees from students in academic session 2020-21 and made clear that no students be barred from attending virtual or physical classes and their results be not held up due to non-payment of fees.
A bench comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, in its 128-page judgement, made clear that the truncated fees for academic year 2020-21 would be payable in six equal installments by students or guardians.
The judgement came in two sets of appeal. One set of pleas was directed against the validity of the state law and the rules on grounds including that they abridged fundamental right to practice profession and business guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution as they entered into domain of the private schools by providing for the norms on determination of school fees.
The second set of appeals challenged the orders passed by state authorities ordering deferment of collection of school fees including reduction of fees limited to 70 per cent of tuition fees by schools affiliated with the Central Board of Secondary Education and 60 per cent from the schools affiliated with Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education, in view of reduction of syllabus by the respective boards due to aftermath of pandemic and lockdown from March 2020.
The Director, Secondary Education, on April 09, 2020 directed private schools to defer collection of school fees for a period of three months. The relief was extended to the students by subsequent order by the government official.
The top court upheld the Rajasthan High Court’s judgment in rejecting the challenge to the validity of the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016 and the Rules framed under the law governing fixation of school fees by the government-mandated procedures.
“Undeniably, an unprecedented situation has had evolved on account of complete lockdown due to pandemic. It had serious effect on the individuals, entrepreneurs, industries and the nation as a whole including in the matter of economy and purchasing capacity of one and all. “A large number of people have lost their jobs and livelihood as aftermath of such economic upheaval. The parents who were under severe stress and even unable to manage their day to day affairs and the basic need of their family made fervent representation to the school Management(s) across the State,” Justice Khanwilkar noted in the verdict.
03 May 2021 Judgment on School Fee: What Supreme Court has said:
10 Salient Features
1. Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016 and rules framed thereunder are Constitutionally valid.
2. Govt can provide for external regulatory mechanism for determination of school so or to say fixation of just and permissible school fees at the initial stage itself.
3. The institution is entitled to fix its own fee structure, which may include resonable revenue surplus for development of education and expansion of the institution, as long as it does not entail in profiteering and commercialisation.
4. In the event, the SLFC disapproves the proposal of school Management, the dispensation provided for adjudication of contentious position between the stakeholders in no manner violate the fundamental right of establishment of educational institution guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
5. Formation of Parents-Teachers Association in each private school is held valid.
6. Composition of the SLFC held vaild.
7. The stipulation that decision of fee structure proposed by the school Management, if approved by SLFC, would be binding for three academic years, held valid.
8. State has no powers under any law to reduce the fee once determined under Raj Schools Regulation of Fee Act, 2016.
9. SC however directed schools to recover fee for 2020-21 by reducing it by 15%.
10. SC also directed schools to not to withhold result or debar students from attending online or physical classes on account of non payment of fee.