A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar, conducting the hearing via video conferencing, refused to entertain a petition seeking guidance from private schools not to charge students tuition fees in view of the current situation resulting from COVID-19.
The petition, filed by a practising lawyer, sought to set aside or amend the order of April 17th from the Delhi Government to the degree that tuition fees, if any, will be paid after a reasonable and appropriate period from the reopening of the schools.
Counsel for the petitioner emphasised on Rule 165 of the Delhi School Education Rules of 1973 to support the request for a direction not to charge tuition fees during the time for which the lockdown, currently in force, continues to function. He also argued that parents will not be able to pay their wards fees at the current rates as self-employed people and others have stopped earning and now completely rely on their savings.
The Court noted that the Petitioner’s claim, that parents could not afford even the tuition fee was, ex facie, the Petitioner’s view, and none of the parents was before the Court. Rejecting the Petitioner’s reliance on Rule 165, the Court noted that Rule dealt solely with fee payability and did not deal with fee charges:
“…when it refers to the closure of schools, (it) contemplates a situation in which, owing to physical closure of the school, it is impossible to pay school fees by the due date. Ex facie, the first proviso merely defers the stage of payment, of school fees, in such cases, to the appropriate time, when such payment would become possible, and no more…”,
the Court said.
It further added that the schools could not be regarded as “closed” to disentitle them from charging tuition fees as long as education was imparted online and students were making use of its gain. It is a matter of common knowledge that, in doing so, the effort required by the teacher, and the burden to which the teacher submits himself or herself, is immense, and the efforts of the teachers are often referred to as the noblest of all noble careers which require to be highly commended.
Thus, the Court concluded that the Delhi Government’s decision had struck the right balance between the institutions and parents legitimate concerns.
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