In a relief to hundreds of unaided schools in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court permitted private schools and colleges to collect the first instalment of 40% fees before August 31. The court also told the government to consider providing textbooks for free or at subsidised costs to students of private schools who are unable to afford them.
Justice Anand Venkatesh passed an order on Friday stating that since there was no clarity about the reopening date for schools, private institutions can collect 40% of fees as the first instalment before August 31. He also permitted the schools to collect the arrears of fees from the previous academic year by September 30. The state government had suggested that private, unaided schools be allowed to collect 75% of the fees for the current academic year in three equal instalments.
The judgment came on a government order issued on April 20 prohibiting private schools and colleges from compelling or demanding parents to pay the fees for the current academic year. The order, which was passed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, had also prohibited the institutions from demanding the arrears from previous years.
Following that, the Federation of Association of Private Schools, All India Private Educational Institutions Association and several other aggrieved parties moved the Madras High Court seeking to revoke the government order. The petitioners also requested the court to prohibit teachers from demanding a pay hike during the pandemic. They also asked the government to provide free books for the benefit of needy students.
The case was heard by Justice Anand Venkatesh and during the hearing, the government counsel said that non-aided and private schools can collect 75% fees in three instalments â€“ 25% now, 25% once the schools reopen and 25% in the next three months, he said. He also added that the government has received representations from the institutions, parents and teachers and that it has to consider all the stakeholders while issuing an order.
The counsel for the petitioners, Xavier Arulraj, meanwhile, submitted that the schools were ready to cooperate with the governmentâ€™s announcements but that the welfare of the institutions should also be taken into consideration. The government should also reconsider the plea submitted on the property tax for private institutions, he said. Senior advocate Sanmugasundaram appearing for the private institutions said the court should allow the institutions to collect the pending fees from the students.
Justice Anand Venkatesh recorded all the submissions and ordered that private educational institutions in Tamil Nadu be allowed to collect the fees from the students as per the schedule provided by the court â€“ 40% by August 31, 2020 and the remaining 35% within two months from the date of reopening of institutions and after physical classes resume. He also accepted the demand of the petitioners about pay hikes and ordered that teachers shall not ask for a salary hike during the pandemic. Adding that the state can decide on providing textbooks free of cost or at low prices, Justice Anand Venkatesh ordered that the committee to fix the fees should decide on the issue within 8 months from August.
The next hearing of the case has been scheduled for October 5, 2020.