Charging Fees During Lockdown
This Blog is written by Utkarsha Singh from University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun. Edited by Saumya Tripathi.
PARENTS PROTEST OUTSIDE THE CHANDIGARH SCHOOLS OVER FEES COLLECTION AMID LOCKDOWN
Parents staged a protest outside St Xavier Senior High School, Sector 44, Chandigarh, after receiving a communication from the school administration about the submission of tuition fees for April, May and June.
Parents also protested against the increase in the annual fee. They claimed that large numbers of working-class families face wages cut and layoffs, and the school, on the other hand, has went on the extent to increase its annual school fees. It was alleged by the parents that the schools were charging them for ACs, electricity etc at the time when they were not attending school. There were discussions between parents and the school administration on the subject. Parents wanted the school principal to speak to them jointly outside of school, while school authorities asked them to present their case individually or to give written representation about all their problems and other problems regarding depositing fees.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DEVELOPMENT
There was an order passed by the Union Territory education department that whereby the private schools were directed to reschedule the last date for the deposition of school fees and the funds of the session 2020-21. The schools were also directed to fix the last date of depositing the fees by giving a month’s notice after the reopening of the schools. Also, that strict actions would be taken if any complaints would be reported against any private schools charging late fees.
A memo was issued by the DEO wherein the private schools were directed to update their applications to refrain from insisting the parents for depositing the outstanding fees. It was further directed that no messages even those intimating the parents to pay the fees, was to be sent. Any failures to abide to the direction would entail the withdrawal of the recognition from the school.
The Independent Schools Association Chandigarh along with 7 other private schools have moved to the Punjab and Haryana High court pleading to quash the order passed by the Chandigarh administration to reschedule the last date for the deposition of school fees and funds for the 2020-21 session.
A petition was filed by Independent Schools’ association by the name Independent Schools’ Association Chandigarh (Regd.) and others v State of Punjab and others wherein the counsel contended that the Punjab School Education Board has given directions that the schools can only charge tuition fees and not building charges, transportation charges and charges for meals etc. At the same time at condition no. 3.0(v), schools have been directed not to reduce the salaries of the teachers. He further contends that both these conditions are contradictory keeping in view that on one side parents are to be given concession of not depositing the full fees and on the other side schools are being directed to not reduce the salaries of the teachers.
He submits that all the private unaided schools deposit funds under the head “Reserved Funds” with the Punjab School Education Board which amounts to 77 crores at present and even with regards to running of the schools with minimum staff, sanitization is being done by the private schools and government of Punjab has not come to help them on this side as well. He further contends that the admission fees of the students cannot be stalled as this fee is to be given one time by the parents of the child when the child gets admission in the school.
The association stated that reopening of schools is uncertain by looking at the increasing cases of the corona virus therefore in the meantime the school management has to disburse salary to its staff and faculties, due to non-payment of fees they were eventually running out of funds. It was also submitted that the schools had invested to a very great deal in technological platform so that the online classes went on and the students would not suffer in academics.
It was also stated that the livelihood of the teaching and the non -teaching staff depended upon the funs collected in the form of the fees submitted by the parents. The school also holds some financial obligations like the repayment of loans, taxes and insurance liabilities and also the charges of the electricity and water bills. Therefore, it was argued that the opening of the schools was very uncertain as it was not anywhere linked to the lifting of the lockdown.
There were a number of modifications made in the Punjab Regulation of Fees of Unaided Institutions Act, 2015 on 13th April 2018.
In Section 5, after the 3rd proviso, the following proviso was added, namely
“Provided further that every unaided educational institution shall-
1) Upload income, expenditure account and balance sheet on its website
2) Not charge any kind of cost from parents
3) Not raise the fees amount any time during the academic session
Provided further that the increase in the fee cannot exceed eight percent of the fee of the previous year, charged by the unaided educational institute.
In addition to regulating fee increases, the Act does not allow schools to require fees through separate parentheses, allowing schools to collect only tuition fees. However, since 2017, many schools increased their tuition fees, incorporating all charges within the tuition fee range to bypass the school fee regulations mandated by the Act.
State of Bombay v R M D Chamarbaughwala
It was held in the case that education is per se an activity that is charitable in nature. Imparting of education is a State function. The State, however, having regard to its financial constraints is not always in a position to perform its duties. The function of imparting education has been to a large extent taken over by the citizens themselves.
TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka
The scheme formulated by this Court in the case of Unni Krishnan (supra) was considered an unreasonable restriction within the meaning of Article 19 (6) of the Constitution, since it resulted in a decrease in income, making it difficult for educational institutions. Consequently, all orders and addresses issued by the State in compliance with the instructions in the case of Unni Krishnan (supra) were considered unconstitutional. This Court observed in said judgment that the right to establish and administer an institution included the right to admit students; right to establish a reasonable fee structure; right to establish a governing body, right to appoint staff and right to take disciplinary measures. The case of the TMA Pai Foundation for the first time brought into existence the concept of education as “occupation”, a term used in Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution. It was held by majority that Articles 19 (1) (g) and 26 confer rights to all citizens and religious denominations, respectively, to establish and maintain educational institutions.
Modern School v Union of India and Others
Bench: CJI V.N. KHARE & S.H. KAPADIA.
It was questioned that:
It was alleged that said right is subject to public and national interests. The provision of education was held to be a function of the State, but due to scarce resources, States were not in a position to establish a sufficient number of educational institutions and consequently allowed private educational institutions to perform State functions. It was alleged that the Government had the legal right to set the rates to guarantee that there was no profit.
Each institute should be free to set its own fee structure, after taking into account the need to generate funds to run the institution and provide the necessary facilities for the benefit of the students. They must be able to generate surpluses that must be used for the improvement and growth of that educational institution. The fee structure should be set taking into account the infrastructure and facilities available, the investment made, the salaries paid to teachers and staff, future plans for expansion and / or improvement of the institution subject to two restrictions that is without profit and without charges. Capitation fees. It was argued that surpluses / profits can be generated, but will be used for the benefit of that educational institution. It is argued that profits / surpluses cannot be diverted for any other use or purpose and cannot be used for personal profit or for other businesses or companies. The Court noted that there were several statutes / regulations were governing the setting of fees, and therefore this Court ordered the respective state governments to establish a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of that State to approve the fee structure or to propose any other fee that the institute may charge.
According to me the order passed by the Punjab School Education Board for providing concession to parents regarding their wards fees was not valid and proper. This is the time when the whole nation is facing an acute crisis which the nations was not prepared to deal with prior handily. The end of the crisis is very much uncertain as no proper cure or vaccine for the respiratory disease COVID-19 has yet been developed there for the main crisis that the nation would be facing in the near future would be the lack of funds. The whole country has come to an abrupt halt as all every institution has been shut down. The most effected being the educational institutions were the new academic sessions were to begin. The schools therefore arranged for online classes and various other online interactive technical platforms that helped the students to a very large extent. The schools provided them with all the important amenities regarding the study materials, online lectures and doubt solving sessions so that their studies would not get affected during the crisis and all this requires quite an amount of funds as well as proper salaries to the teachers as the lectures were conducted by them. All this would only be possible if the schools had proper income and funds as a lot of money had been spent on sanitizing the school campus. Along with it the schools had to comply with the order that the salaries of the teachers were not to be reduced and paid in full amount. The sole source of the school’s funds are the fees payed by the parents and if that would be cut down then the schools will have to face a crisis very huge. Therefore, the parents should not be given any concession in the fees and should be asked to pay the proper amount in the proper time as there were not stones left unturned by the schools in providing unhindered education to the students.
Sometime in the second week of March, state governments across the country began to temporarily close schools and universities as a measure to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. It is close to a month and there is no certainty when they will reopen. This is a crucial time for the education sector: during this period, board exams, kindergarten admissions, entrance exams to various universities and competitive exams, among others, are held. As the days go by without an immediate solution to stop the Covid-19 outbreak, the closure of schools and universities will not only have a short-term impact on the learning continuity of more than 285 million young students in India, it will also beget much reaching economic and social consequences.
The structure of schooling and learning, including teaching and assessment methodologies, was the first affected by these closings. Only a handful of private schools were able to adopt online teaching methods. Its low-income government and private school counterparts, on the other hand, have closed entirely for not having access to e-learning solutions. Students, in addition to missed opportunities to learn, no longer have access to healthy meals during this time and are subject to economic and social stress.
The pandemic has also significantly disrupted the higher education sector, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future. A large number of Indian students, second only to China, enroll in universities abroad, especially in the countries most affected by the pandemic, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and China. Many of these students are now prohibited from leaving these countries. If the situation persists, in the long run, a decrease in the demand for international higher education is expected.