NEW DELHI: In what promises to have a nation-wide ripple effect, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay a Calcutta High Court order to educational institutions to charge 80% of basic fees and not charge any fee on account of extracurricular activities, sports, craft and laboratory for the period institutions remained closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unaided and minorityrun institutions had challenged the HC order, which also included a directive to not raise fees for the academic year 2020-21. Top lawyers A M Singhvi, Kapil Sibal and Joideep Gupta said the HC could not have gone into the issue as an SC Constitution bench in TMA Pai case had held that unaided and minority education societies had full freedom regarding management of institutions set up by them.
SC bench keeps 20% waiver order operational
Appearing for the PIL petitioner, on whose plea the HC had passed the order, advocate Sai Deepak said the HC had jurisdiction to deal with the issue in public interest as many parents had lost jobs or suffered reduction in salaries because of the pandemic.
In response to the educational institutions’ TMA Pai judgment argument, a bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah said, “When TMA Pai judgment was passed, there was no pandemic.” The bench issued notice on the appeals filed by educational institutions and stayed some of the directions of the HC. However, it kept operational the HC directions asking educational institutions not to charge more than 80% of fees, waive fees for extracurricular and similar activities and not to raise fees this academic session.
On October 13, a Calcutta HC bench of justices Sanjib Banerjee and Moushumi Bhattacharya had, among other things, ordered, “There will be no increase in fees during the financial year 2020-21. From the month beginning April 2020 till the month following the one in which schools reopen in the physical mode, all 145 schools will offer a minimum of 20% reduction of fees across the board.”