KOLKATA: The Calcutta high court on Tuesday directed private, unaided schools not to bar students from either online classes or online examinations till August 15 even as it asked parents to clear 80% of the fees due till July 31 by the same August deadline. The court also instructed the schools to take back students already removed from online classes for non-payment of fees in the lockdown months.
The order is applicable for all classes and courses. The HC is likely to hear the case again on August 10.
In its six-page interim order, a division bench of justices Sanjib Banerjee and Moushumi Bhattacharya hoped that “if substantial payments are made on behalf of the students who are in default, the relevant schools will not discontinue the online courses for any mea-gre shortfall in payment”.
The HC was hearing a PIL filed by Vineet Ruia representing nearly 15,000 parents from 112 private, unaided Kolkata schools affiliated to different boards. The PIL claimed that even though these institutions remained shut for four months they continued to demand regular fees and some even barred students from attending online classes over non-payment of dues.
Advocate general Kishore Dutta told the HC that the state government had from time to time urged these schools “to refrain from increasing fees” and to “give discounts and concessions” to parents. He added that not all these schools had paid their employees, including the teachers.
Four leading city schools informed the court that while some contractual employees may not have been paid or had their contracts renewed, all regular employees had received their salaries. The HC observed that it was not clear if all the 112 schools involved in this case “have either paid all their staff or have even paid them at a reduced level”.
Ruia’s lawyer, Priyanka Agarwal, said they had sought discounts on fees due to the “reduced cost in the running of the schools over the last four months”.
The HC sought a detailed response from the schools on whether all their employees had been paid during the lockdown and “the extent of discount” given to the students for their inability to function in the lockdown. It also sought responses from the affiliating boards. The Bengal government was asked to specify what it had done in the matter and to explain its stand.