The Uttarakhand High Court passed an interim order which restricts private schools in the state from sending emails and WhatsApp messages; asking parents of students to pay tuition fee for conducting online classes during this period of COVID-19 lockdown. There were two petitions before the court stating that private schools in the state were demanding tuition fees from parents.
Contentions of the Petition
The petitioners stated that this action of the schools violates the Government Order issued on May 2; which clearly stated that ‘only private unaided schools conducting online classes were allowed to collect tuition fees’; and ‘the payment of such fees would be voluntary’.
Some schools claimed to conduct online classes even for Upper Kindergarten students. Therefore, the schools sent WhatsApp messages and e-mails, demanding parents to pay tuition fees. The petitioner asserted that the schools ‘took this step only to collect tuition fees from gullible parents’. Further, as Uttarakhand is a hilly and poor state, many people lacked internet access. Due to which many children were not able to participate in online classes. But allegedly private School authorities have been ignoring this fact.
Decision By The Uttrakhand High Court
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice RC Khulbe held,
“The objective of the government order on 2 May 2020 was to ease the burden on parents; who can not earn their livelihood have to pay the fees in these testing times. While the court understands the difficulties of these schools who have to make expenses without collecting fees but requires them to support the people. The court expects them to follow the Government order.” Moreover, the court passed some directions regarding the same.
The High Court directed the schools to ask for tuition fee from only those children that attend the online classes; if they choose to do so. Schools have been ordered to not demand tuition fee from children cannot attend e-classes. As payment of tuition fee by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents; demanding them to pay the tuition fees. The next hearing of this matter is on May 26, 2020.