Punjab & Haryana HC in the case of Independent Schools’ Association Chandigarh Versus State of Punjab and others
Independent Schools’ Association Chandigarh
State of Punjab and others
Facts of the case:
This order shall dispose of all the above-mentioned writ petitions as the impugned orders are common. However, for the sake of convenience, the facts are being extracted from CWP-7409-2020.
Petitioner No.1 in CWP No.7409 of 2020 is an Association of 78 unaided privately managed schools, which are affiliated either with Central Board of Secondary Education (‘CBSE’) or with Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), whereas petitioner Nos.2 to 9 are the Societies running their respective Schools, which are private unaided Educational Institutions and are presently members of petitioner No.1-Association.
Due to the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is witnessing unprecedented times. India has not been able to remain unscathed from the spread of the contagion. To deal with the emergent situation, the Government of India as also the State of Punjab, has taken certain stringent measures. The country has been under a nationwide lockdown since 24.03.2020. The Governor of Punjab, in the exercise of powers purportedly conferred under Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 (for brevity,’ the 1897 Act’) framed regulations ‘the Punjab Epidemic Disease, Covid-19 Regulations, 2020’ (for brevity, ‘the Regulations 2020’) which were duly notified on March 05, 2020, by the Government of Punjab through its Department of Health and Family Welfare.
Observations of the Court:
In view of the above discussion, in order to maintain the balance, so that neither of the parties suffers, it would be appropriate that the school management works out only the actual expenditure incurred under the ‘Annual Charges’ for the period the school remained closed due to lockdown including summer period and recover only such genuine expenditure incurred by it and shall not recover any charges for this period for any co-curricular activity towards which no expenditure was incurred. This Court has consciously observed ‘for the period the school remained closed including summer period’ as there is no difference in the expenditure whether the school was closed on account of lockdown or summer vacations.
The judgement of the court:
In view of the above discussion and reasons for each of the directions stated in the judgment above, the writ petitions are disposed of as under:-
(a) The schools are permitted to collect their admission fee, henceforth.
(b) All schools irrespective of whether they offered online classes during the lock-down period or not are entitled to collect the tuition fee. However, they will continue to endeavor and impart online/ distance learning so that education is not adversely impacted due to the present or future lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19.
(c ) The school management of each school shall work out their actual expenditure incurred under the annual charges for the period the school remained closed and recover only such genuine expenditure incurred by them including actual transport charges and actual building charges but shall not recover any charge for this period for any activity or facility towards which no expenditure was incurred. However, the annual charges for the remaining period shall be recovered as already fixed by the school;
(d) The schools shall restrain themselves for the reasons, as mentioned above, from increasing the fee for the year 2020-21 and adopt the same fee structure as of 2019- 20.
(e) Any parent not able to pay the school fee in the above terms may file their application along with necessary proof about their financial status, which shall be looked into by the school- authority and, after looking into it sympathetically, give concession or exempt the entire fee, as the case may be. In case the parent is still aggrieved, in any manner, with an adverse decision by the school on his application, he may approach the Regulatory Body, so constituted under Section 7 of the Punjab Regulation of Fee of Un-aided Educational Institutions Act, 2016. No parent shall misuse the concession by laying a false claim.
(f) Section 7 of the Punjab Regulation of Fee of Un-aided Educational Institutions Act, 2016 is already in place for looking into the complaints of the parents or guardians with regard to charging any excessive fee or to do any other activity with the motive to give financial benefit or profit. The parents are at liberty to take recourse to the same and, therefore, no specific direction is required to be given by this Court separately;
(g) In case any school is facing a financial crunch for not having charged the increased fee for the year 2020-21, may move a representation to the District Education Officer along with its proof of the same, who shall look into it and pass appropriate orders within three weeks of the receipt of such an application. However, this may be exercised only in a very hard case where the school is facing financial crunch and has no reserved resources to meet the expenses.
(h) It is clarified that there is no modification in the direction of Nos. (ii), (iii) and (v) of the impugned order dated 14.05.2020.
(i) There is also no modification in the direction No.(iv) of the order dated 14.05.2020 that no child will be deprived of attending the schools and online classes. However, the same is subject to the parent of such a child moving an application in terms of direction (e) above of this order and final decision on the said application.
Disposed of in the above terms.
As the main case stands decided, the miscellaneous application(s) for modification is also rendered infructuous and disposed of accordingly.
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