In the case of Vineet Ruia v. State of West Bengal, the High Court held virtual proceedings. The case is related to the non-payment of school fees by parents due to the pandemic. The Court in the last judgment said that the schools will give online classes to students free of cost as many students are not able to pay the fees.
Arguments Made by the Parties
Learned Advocate General has brought it to the Court’s notice that the state’s affidavit filed in this matter has been circulated in the social media by the petitioner. There is, no doubt, an element of public interest involved. Merely because the petitioner is publicity-hungry, it may not result in the petition being dismissed, but the petitioner may be shut out and an amicus curiae appointed in the event the petitioner uses this forum for the petitioner’s political gains. In any event, the petitioner cannot satisfy the court that service has been effected on the 112 schools and more which are sought to be affected by the order that has been sought. The petitioner claims to have furnished data on the fees charged by about 45 schools. Since the data pertaining to the majority of schools have not been furnished, the matter cannot be considered in its entirety.
By the previous order of July 21, 2020, the office of learned Additional Solicitor General was required to be served. It is reported that service has been effected of only the petition and even the annexures to the petition and the subsequent supplementary affidavit filed by the petitioner have not been forwarded to such office.
There are many difficulties in a virtual hearing being conducted and care and caution must be exercised that parties likely to be affected by the proceedings or any orders passed therein are not missed out. At this moment, the Court cannot be confident that the parties likely to be affected have been informed or have been made aware of the proceedings or have had an opportunity to participate therein.
Court’s Observation and Decision
The Court said that the matter cannot be taken up immediately. The petitioner must satisfy the Court that all the schools likely to be affected by the orders that may be passed herein have been duly served. It will be open to all schools to file affidavits, if not already done, to furnish the details of the fees charged, expenses on account of salary, the other fixed and variable costs. The petitioner will refrain from using social media to propagate the petitioner’s interests in this matter; or else the petitioner may be excluded from the proceedings. The case is adjourned for a week.
The petitioner must ensure service of copies of the petition and the supplementary affidavit, together with all the annexures, on all schools likely to be affected by the proceedings.
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