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Calcutta High Court grants shield to students of private schools

Promotion can’t be denied or report cards withheld for non-payment of fees

Tapas Ghosh, Jhinuk Mazumdar | Published 07.04.22, 06:32 AM
Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court

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The high court on Wednesday ruled that private unaided schools whose names had come up with regard to allegations of arbitrary fee hike during the pandemic could not deny promotion to any student or withhold report cards for non-payment of fees.

If there is any complaint of arbitrary increase in school fees during the pandemic, it will be looked into by two joint special officers designated by the court.

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The order is applicable to all 145 schools that are respondents in the case. The schools had in October 2020 been accused of charging fees for services that were not offered during the pandemic.

The special bench of Justice I.P. Mukerji and Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya, which passed the order on Wednesday, said “all students shall be allowed to join the higher class in the new session and shall be provided the normal educational facilities”.

“The Joint Special Officers will also look into the complaint of arbitrary increase in school fees during the Covid-19 pandemic period with a view to circumvent the order of this court and take a decision in the matter with regard to fee actually payable by those guardians/ students,” the order said.

The joint special officers are advocates practising in the high court, Tilak Bose and Udayan Chakraborty.

The order said each guardian/student shall pay the fee determined as payable by the joint special officers within two weeks of being determined.  The joint special officers shall also include in their report the names of the students who have not made any payment while the interim orders were in force, the court said.

The court said the arrangement under which the students shall pay fees and other charges for the new session shall be “entirely between the schools/ teaching institutions and the students/guardians and shall not be affected by this order or any previous order”.

Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava of Calcutta High Court had reconstituted the special bench of Justice Mukerji and Justice Bhattacharya after a section of parents appealed to him alleging that private unaided schools were not granting promotion to students and withholding their report cards on the ground of non-payment of fees.

At many schools, the new session started in April and in-person classes have resumed. At least one student had posted a video from the school gate allegedly after being denied permission to get in.

In February, the division bench of Justice Mukerji and Justice Bhattacharya had ordered guardians to pay full fees from March and also asked them to pay 80 per cent of the fees between April 2020 and February 2022 by March 25.

But the order had barred the schools from taking any coercive measure against students for failing to pay 80 per cent of the fees between April 2020 and February 2022.

Wednesday’s order says:

“It is alleged by a section of parents/students, mostly of GD Birla Centre for Education, Mahadevi Birla Sishu Vihar, Adamas International School and some other schools that very arbitrarily the school authorities are not granting promotion to students, withholding their report cards and not allowing them to join the higher class in the new session on the pretext that school fees have not been paid. The schools are charging a much larger amount than that directed to be charged by our interim orders.”

Last updated on 07.04.22, 02:08 PM
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