The Calcutta High Court permitted the schools to charge fees according to their policy and arrangement with the students.
By March, 2020 there was a sudden, widespread and most serious onset in our country of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus. Physical education had to be discontinued. It was substituted by online education. Online education generated its own problems.
On one hand, the students or their parents/guardians complained that the schools and other educational institutions continued to charge them fees which were disproportionately high considering the type of education imparted online.
They said that although physical education had been discontinued, the schools and other educational institutions were charging them for facilities and services which could only be rendered when education was physical.
On the other hand, the management of a body of schools and other educational institutions were aggrieved by nonpayment or short payment of fees by the students. It was alleged on behalf of the students that services rendered by those institutions were much reduced by the online mode, and the parents/guardians were suffering economic hardship caused by the pandemic. Hence, fees be reduced.
The division bench of Justice I.P. Mukerji and Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya noted that there is substantial remission of the effects of the pandemic. Life in all spheres has become substantially normal. In fact, by the notification of the State Government dated 14th February, 2022, even primary and upper primary schools have been thrown open to physical education with effect from 16th February, 2022.
The court ordered that with prospective effect from 16th February, 2022, that part of our order permitting deduction of 20% of school fees stands vacated. The schools and other educational institutions are permitted to charge fees according to their policy and arrangement with the students.
The court said that in case of any dispute between the school fees claimed and the school fees payable according to a student for the period up to today, 50% (fifty per cent) of the demand by the school or the admitted amount by the student, whichever is higher, has to be paid without prejudice to the rights and contentions of the parties in the litigation, by 15th March, 2022.
The court further ordered that till 31st March, 2022 or until further orders, whichever is earlier, no coercive action like expulsion of any student from the school, withholding of admit card to sit for any Board or school examination, withholding of mark-sheets or certificates on the ground of default in payment of school fees, shall be taken by the schools or other educational institutions covered by this litigation against any student.
Case title: Rajib Chakraborty and Ors. v/s The State of West Bengal and Ors.
Citation: W.P.A.(P) 162 of 2021