In a setback to parents from middle and lower-income groups, the Karnataka High Court has now allowed unaided schools in the state to collect 85% of their full annual fees for the academic year 2020-21. This will mean that parents have to pay 85% of the total fees including maintenance and other fees charged by schools instead of 85% of the tuition fees alone. The fees were slashed after the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic on account of the economic hardship faced by the parents due to the resultant lockdown.
An order passed by a bench of Justice Ashok S Kinagi on December 7 stayed a government order dated November 12, which had said unaided schools could collect up to 85% of their tuition fees for the year 2020-21 as an interim measure. The case will be heard again in January 2022.
The order came as the HC was hearing a petition filed by the Karnataka Education Society and others. On Monday, the court was hearing senior advocates Uday Kumar Holla and Farah Fathima appearing for two unaided religious minority institutions – St Paul's English School and Presidency School. Live Law quoted the petitioners saying that the government order regarding 85% of the tuition fee was leading to “confusion and chaos” with regards to the collection of fees.
The senior counsels mentioned the Supreme Court order with regards to the same issue passed in May 2021. In that order, the SC had allowed a reduction of only 15% of the total fees and stayed further reduction of fees by the state government of Rajasthan. Following that the Karnataka High Court in September 2021 had modified the Karnataka government order mandating a fee cut of 30% after private schools approached the court. The HC ruled that the reduction be of 15% while not changing the mandate of the state government order which barred schools from charging anything over and above the tution fees.
However, parents' associations in the state were unhappy with the HC order and demanded that the Karnataka government appoint a fee regulatory body for private schools in the state. In light of this new order, Shakeel, Voice of Parents said that they are also taking legal opinion to seek relief.