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Schools can’t shut down citing fee law and order, says Calcutta High Court

GD Birla Centre for Education, Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar and Ashok Hall Girls’ Higher Secondary School had closed earlier this month

Tapas Ghosh, Jhinuk Mazumdar | Published 20.04.22, 06:20 AM
Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court

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A Calcutta High Court division bench on Tuesday ordered that private unaided schools whose names had come up in connection with allegedly arbitrary fee hikes could not disallow any student from attending classes or close their institutions citing law and order.

The bench of Justice I.P. Mukerji and Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya ruled that disputes over payment of fees, law and order problems and other issues would be dealt with by the special officers appointed earlier by the same court.


“The special officers will have the liberty to take assistance from local police in case of any law-and-order problem,” the order on Tuesday said.

During the hearing, Justice Mukerji said the private schools could not close down citing law-and-order issues.

The division bench was hearing a petition filed by guardians of students of GD Birla Centre for Education, Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar, Ashok Hall Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Little Steps and Hind Motor Education Centre.

The petition alleged that the schools were not allowing students to enter the campus or attend classes despite their parents having paid the fees in accordance with an earlier court order.

Three of the institutions — GD Birla Centre for Education, Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar and Ashok Hall Girls’ Higher Secondary School, which are part of a group — had shut down earlier this month citing “law and order situation” after days of agitation at the school gates over fees.

The three schools reopened after a few days but posted a notice at the gate that the campuses were open only for the students who had cleared all their dues.

Tuesday’s high court order says: “GD Birla Centre for Education will immediately withdraw its notice dated 9th April, 2022, and allow the students to attend classes in the usual course immediately. All other schools will also follow the directions in this order." The notice, pasted on the school gate, read: “The school will reopen on Monday, 11/04/2022 for students who have cleared all dues.”

Parents of a section of students of the schools were among those who filed the public interest litigation seeking the court's intervention in connection with the alleged harassment of students and parents.

Moving the petition on Tuesday, lawyer Vineet Ruia said schools had been issuing notices declaring closure of institutions citing law and order problems and some schools were discriminating against a section of students by not allowing them to attend classes.

The petition sought the court’s intervention so these students could attend classes on a regular basis.

The lawyers appearing on behalf of the schools declined to accept the contention that the petitioner guardians had paid the fees in accordance with the orders of the court and accused them of creating disturbance in the running of the institutions.

The division bench asked the schools to lodge their complaints with the court-appointed special officers, who would have the liberty to resolve the problems. The special officers have to submit their report in the court on June 6.

The same bench had earlier appointed advocates Tilak Basu and Udayan Chakraborty as special officers to hear the disputes related to payment of fees.

The court on Tuesday asked a lawyer appearing for the GD Birla Centre for Education how many students had defaulted on payment of fees.

The lawyer told the court that out of 3,000 students, “87 cases” had yet to be resolved regarding payment of fees.

Justice Bhattacharya asked the lawyer: “Because of 87 students your institution is facing trouble?”

Justice Mukerji asked the school’s lawyers about the law and order problem that prompted the authorities to shut down the institution.

One lawyer said he would have to take instructions from his client to answer the court’s query.

Last updated on 20.04.22, 06:20 AM

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