Ruling that schools cannot take fee from those students who can’t access online classes, Uttarakhand high court on Tuesday directed the Uttarakhand Government to appoint the district education officers and block development officers in each district as the nodal officers to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay tuition fees by private schools.
Ajay Veer Pundir, counsel of the petitioner, said the PIL has been filed by PIL Dehradun based Japinder Singh, in which he had raised the issue that during lockdown period many schools were charging hefty fee from the parents regarding online classes. He said many families in the hilly areas even don’t have computers, smartphones, and proper internet connectivity.
HC in its order issued on Tuesday ruled that on receipt of any such complaints, the concerned nodal officers “shall take prompt action against the erring educational institutions who are coercing parents, to pay the tuition fees of their children, though the government order issued on May 2, 2020, expressly stipulates that payment of tuition fees is voluntary”.
The HC pointed out that “Since the government order dated May 2, 2020, enables only those institutions which run online classes to collect tuition fees, it is only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, who would be required to pay the tuition fee, if they choose to do so”.
The court made it clear that “children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee.. It does appear that subtle means are being adopted by these private institutions to force parents to pay the tuition fees. Since payment of tuition by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents calling upon them to pay the tuition fees”.
The HC also directed secretary school education to call for information from all the district education officers regarding “the number of private schools, in their respective districts, which offer online courses, and the number of students who have access to such online courses. Information shall be obtained from each of these private schools as to whether tuition fees is being collected even from those students who have no access to the online course offered by the schools, and whether these schools have collected tuition fees from such students also”.
“This information shall not only be collected from students of Class 1 to Class 10, but also· with regards children who are undergoing their upper kindergarten. The secretary, school education shall submit a detailed report in this regard to this court by the next date of hearing”, the order stated.