Bengal’s private and unaided schools – including minority institutions – have to reduce fees for the months of no physical classes by 20% and parents must pay the cut-down amount by November 30, the HC has ruled. The division bench of Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya said schools could only charge tuition fees, not “non-essential charges”, and set a profit cap of “5% above expenditure” this fiscal. This loss could be made up over the next two fiscals, if normal school functioning resumed by then.
“The CNI has given us the go-ahead and we have prepared our papers for appealing against the HC order in the SC. The case will be filed either on Thursday or on Friday,” said B P Tiwary, lawyer who represented CNI schools in the Calcutta HC. Throughout Wednesday, schools held meetings over the order and the steps that they considered to take next.
“We are studying the order minutely. If the school authorities feel, they can move the apex court,” said lawyer Sabyasachi Chowdhury, who represented a group of schools. Advocate Paritosh Sinha, who represented the other minorities schools, and advocate Sanjay Ginodia, who stood for another girls’ school, said the institutes they represented in the HC had not yet taken any decision on what to be done next.
The CNI had earlier told the HC it was its right as an unaided minority institution to be treated differently as it enjoyed a separate status under the Constitution. It had refused to make its accounts books public. Calcutta HC Tuesday order was, however, binding equally on all private schools.
After Vineet Ruia and Raja Satyajit Banerjee filed an PIL in the court, asking for a reduction in fees during the pandemic, 145 schools had filed affidavits against it. In the course of the hearings, the schools got divided into three groups that put forth different plans for offering concessions to parents. Apart from CNI, there was another minority group that had Roman Catholic schools and another group with linguistic minority schools. The third group had private schools run by trusts, corporate houses or private owners.
The Calcutta High Court order said schools must announce the concessions on their websites and asked parents, who needed further concessions, to appeal to institutes with their audited financial documents by November 15. Schools would have to take a call by December 31 and parents should clear the post-concession fees by November 30, failing which schools could start removing children from the roster from December 8, provided extreme caution was taken while doing so, the HC had said.