Cut annual fee by 15%, don’t debar over non-payment: SC to Rajasthan private schools

The Supreme Court on Monday directed private unaided schools in Rajasthan to lower the annual school fee by 15 percent for the 2020-21 academic year in lieu of unutilised facilities by the students due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said the schools may collect the full annual fee, as fixed under the Rajasthan Schools (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2016, for the preceding academic year (2019-20), but for the 2020-21 academic year, the schools will have to lower the fee by 15 per cent. The court also said that the schools are free to provide more concessions to the students – beyond the 15 per cent deduction that has been directed.

The SC’s Monday order will impact around 36,000 private unaided schools, including 220 minority private unaided schools, as well as lakhs of students and their parents in Rajasthan.

The SC said that as noted in its order dated February 8, 2021, “the amount so payable by the concerned students be paid in six equal monthly installments before August 5, 2021.”

However, the court has prohibited schools “from debarring any student from attending either online classes or physical classes on account of non-payment of fees, arrears/outstanding fees including the instalments, referred to above…” and directed that schools “shall not withhold the results of the examinations of any student on that account.”

The top court was hearing petitions by managements of private schools in Rajasthan which had approached the SC against a Rajasthan High Court order issued on December 18, 2020.

In the order, now quashed by the SC, the HC had upheld the Rajasthan government’s October 2020 order directing private schools under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) in the state to forego 30 per cent and 40 per cent tuition fee, respectively. The decision was taken by the state following representations made by several parents about the difficulties encountered by them due to the pandemic.

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