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Schools must reduce fees as classes are online, no overhead & maintenance costs: SC
Demanding fees even in respect of overheads on such activities would be nothing short of indulging in profiteering and commercialisation.
The Supreme Court has made some significant observations that are applicable to schools, colleges and other educational institutions in the time of pandemic when teaching has gone online for more than a year now.
The Supreme Court bench led by Justice Khanwilkar in a judgment noted that schools and educational institutions which remain closed for physical classes for the past more than a year and continue to do so must ideally reduce fees as their running and overhead costs of maintenance, electricity, petrol/diesel to run generators, water cost, stationery charges have come down with various facilities provided on campus remaining closed.
SC said that demanding fee for facilities not availed amounts to “profiteering and commercialization”, adding “overheads and operational costs so saved would be nothing, but an amount undeservedly earned by the school without offering such facilities to the students."
By saying this, the Supreme Court directed Rajasthan private schools to give a 15% deduction In annual school fees for the period 2020-21. The SC was hearing an appeal filed by some private schools of Rajasthan against HC order upholding the Rajasthan government's direction to schools to give a deduction of 30% in fees. Striking down that rule, the SC said that the appellants are justified in challenging the government order. However, that does not give licence to the appellants “to be rigid and not be sensitive about the aftermath of the pandemic."
This is what a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar 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 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 commercialisation. It is a wellknown fact and judicial notice can also be taken that, due to complete lockdown, the schools were not allowed to open for a substantially long period during the academic year 202021.
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. the bench said.
The parents, who are demanding a cut in fees, told the bench that the schools have saved a colossal amount of money during the online classes towards electricity charges, water charges, stationery charges and other miscellaneous charges which are required for the physical running of the school. Agreeing with the parents' contention, the bench said, “Indeed, overheads and operational costs so saved would be nothing, but an amount undeservedly earned by the school without offering such facilities to the students during the relevant period."