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High court gives schools freedom on fee default action

Institutions can act against students who fail to pay half the outstanding fees within three weeks or even strike the names of such students off the rolls
Calcutta High Court

Our Legal Reporter   |   Calcutta   |   Published 07.08.21, 01:42 AM

A division bench of the high court on Friday modified its earlier order and gave 149 private schools that take no aid from the government the liberty to act against students who fail to pay half the outstanding fees within three weeks.

The schools can even strike the names of such students off the rolls.

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The division had on November 18 — it was then headed by Justice Sanjiv Banerjee — waived 20 per cent of the tuition fees and several other charges levied by schools for the period when classes are held online because of the Covid pandemic.

That order restrained the school authorities from barring students from taking part in online classes and writing online exams for failing to pay the fees on time.

On Friday, the bench — now comprising Justice I.P. Mukerji and Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya — held that the schools would have the liberty to take any step against a student for not paying at least 50 per cent of the dues within three weeks.

“Within three weeks from the date, at least 50 per cent of the claimed amount should be paid, irrespective of any dispute with regard to the claim of the school,” the order says.

The court said a student’s name could be struck off the rolls if the parent did not pay at least half the claimed amount in the stipulated period.

“We permit the school and teaching institutions to suspend instructions to the students in all forms including name of students from the roll of students”.

“For those students who have taken the school final and higher secondary examinations and qualified, a direction to be made to the respective boards to suspend their qualification and certificates till the school fees are paid,” the order says.

Vineet Ruia, the main petitioner in the case, said the order needed clarification. “The order did not make it clear whether 50 per cent of the actual fees would have to be paid or 50 per cent of reduced fees (as directed by Justice Banerjee), in the three-week period.”

Across schools, hundreds of parents have defaulted on fee payment. Many of them have been hit hard financially because of the pandemic but schools say there are many willful defaulters as well.

Ruia had last year filed a case on behalf of parents of students of private schools claiming that the institutions were not allowing students to participate in online classes or to sit in exams because of non-payment of fees.

On July 4, the schools moved the high court alleging that the guardians were not even paying the fees fixed by the court. Friday’s order comes on that prayer.

Parents said they would challenge the order in the Supreme Court.



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