Delhi High Court quashes Delhi govt order blocking schools from levying annual charges, development fee

The Delhi High Court on Monday quashed orders issued by the Directorate of Education on a plea filed by the association of private unaided schools as it prevented unaided recognised schools/members from collecting a part of the fees i.e. the annual charges and development fees even beyond the lockdown period, till physical opening of schools.

Justice Jayant Nath noted in his order that it cannot be said the school building is completely shut. The building would remain functional for administrative reasons and even, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, for conducting online classes etc. There are expenses like rent, taxes, repair and maintenance of building and maintenance of equipment etc. In case, the said repairs and expenses are not done, it is bound to cause damage to the building, infrastructure and functioning of schools.

“The private recognised unaided schools are clearly dependent only on the fees collected to cover their salary, establishment and all other expenditure on the schools. Any regulations or order which seeks to restrict or indefinitely postpone their powers to collect normal and usual fee as is sought to be done by the impugned orders is bound to create grave financial prejudice and harm to the schools,” said the Delhi High Court.

The Court said the respondent in the facts and circumstances has no power to indefinitely postpone the collection of Annual Charges and Development fees. The impugned acts are prejudicial to the said Schools and would cause an unreasonable restriction in their functioning. The impugned orders dated 18.04.2020 and 28.08.2020 issued by the respondent (Department of Education) to the extent that they forbid the petitioner/postpones collection of Annual Charges and Development Fees are illegal and ultra vires the powers of the respondent stipulated under the Delhi School Education Act (DSE Act) and the Rules. The orders to that extent are quashed.

The counsel for the respondent/Directorate of Education has submitted that during the lockdown period the schools are physically shut. The purpose for Annual Charges and Development Fees are not being met for this period and the same cannot be charged. It was further stressed by the respondent that “a reading of circular reveals that neither the fee fixed or the components thereof have been interdicted in any manner and all that has been done is to delay the collection of Annual Charges and Development Fees for the present keeping in view the prevailing economic situation and the interest of the students.”

The Delhi High Court has also noted, “that the schools are affecting some savings on account of the fact that the schools are presently physically shut. The Supreme Court has already dealt with the stated issue. The directions as passed by the Supreme Court in the case of Indian School, Jodhpur & Anr. vs. State of Rajasthan & Ors.(supra)would clearly apply to the present case mutatis mutandis.

Relevant para of the said judgment reads as follows:-

(i) The appellants (school Management of the concerned private unaided school) shall collect annual school fees from their students as fixed under the Act of 2016 for the academic year 2019-20, but by providing deduction of 15 per cent on that amount in lieu of unutilised facilities by the students during the relevant period of academic year 2020-21.

(ii) The amount so payable by the concerned students be paid in six equal monthly instalments before 05.08.2021 as noted in our order dated 08.02.2021.

(iii) Regardless of the above, it will be open to the appellants (concerned schools) to give further concession to their students or to evolve a different pattern for giving concession over and above those noted in clauses (i) and (ii) above

(iv) The school Management shall not debar any student from attending either online classes or physical classes on account of non-payment of fees, arrears/ outstanding fees including the installments, referred to above, and shall not withhold the results of the examinations of any student on that account.

(v) If any individual request is made by the parent/ward finding it difficult to remit annual fees for the academic year 2020-21 in the above terms, the school Management to consider such representation on case-tocase basis sympathetically.

(vi) The above arrangement will not affect collection of fees for the academic year 2021-22, as is payable by students of the concerned school as and when it becomes due and payable.

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(vii) The school Management shall not withhold the name of any student/candidate for the ensuring Board examinations for Classes X and XII on the ground of nonpayment of fee/arrears for the academic year 2020-21, if any, on obtaining undertaking of the concerned parents/students.”

“The above directions given in paras (i) to (vii) will apply to the petitioner schools mutatis mutandis. However, clause (ii) has to be modified. The amount payable by concerned students will be paid in six monthly installments w.e.f. 10.06.2021,” said the Delhi High Court.
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