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Supreme Court: Schools must reduce fees for online-only classes

Lekha G

A Bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari on Monday said that the educational institutions must reduce fees in consideration of the problems faced by people due to the pandemic.

It insisted that on payment of facilities not provided to students as classes have been shifted to online mode, would amount to profiteering which must be avoided.

The Bench said, “In law, the school management cannot be heard to collect fees in respect of activities and facilities which are, in fact, not provided to or availed of by its students due to circumstances beyond their control. Demanding fees even in respect of overheads on such activities would be nothing short of indulging in profiteering and commercialization. It is a well-known fact and judicial notice can also be taken that due to complete lockdown, schools were not allowed to open for substantially long period during the academic year 2020-21. Resultantly, the school management must have saved overheads and recurring cost on various items such as petrol/diesel, electricity, maintenance cost, water charges, stationery charges, etc.”

While deciding a batch of Pleas of private unaided schools of Rajasthan against the State Government’s order to waive off 30% of tuition fees during the pandemic, the Bench held there is no law to mandate such order but that does not mean that the appellants would be insensitive about the pandemic situation.

Considering the parents contentions demanding to reduce fee, the Bench said that the fees must be refixed by the regulating authority but decided to pass order for minimum 15 percent cut to settle the matter.

The Court also directed the schools not to exclude any student from attending either online classes or physical classes on account of non-payment of fees.