In yet another regressive judgment by the higher judiciary, comes a Delhi HC judgment on online education dated 8th July, 2020. The Delhi High Court in its online hearing of Queen Mary School Northend Vs. Director of Education, has allowed the schools to exclude students from receiving the online education facility in case of default of payment of school tuition fees.
This order from Delhi HC in essence has disregarded the order of the Delhi Government dated 18th April 2020 wherein the private schools had been barred from charging any other component apart from tuition fee, till the lockdown in effect.
The order was passed by Justice Jayant Nath on a single-judge bench of the High Court held that when parents had failed to pay tuition fees for more than two months, the petitioner is free to issue appropriate notice to such parents to explain the reason of default. When the parents are unable to demonstrate to the petitioner regarding their financial difficulties, the (petitioner) school is to communicate the same to the parents and decline such students from accessing online education facility for the students by not providing them with ID and Password.
Clause (VIII) of the circular also stated that the students cannot be denied access to online educational facilities to those students who were unable to pay the school fees due to financial crises arising out of the closure of business activities.
The legal counsel of the school had submitted that more than 40% of the students’ households had taken ‘unfair advantage’ of the orders of the state and had not paid the tuition fees which had led the school to a deep financial crisis.
The bench of Delhi High Court also clarified that the parents could approach the appropriate authority of the Government of NCT of Delhi/respondent if they have any grievance against the school authorities’ decision about the school fees payment.
Through its order, the Delhi High Court has entrusted the schools with the discretionary powers to look into the merits of the ability or inability of the student’s families to pay the school fees. However, the private schools with the intent of collecting fees from the students would definitely want to further their own interests. This puts the onus upon the students’ parents to establish and satisfy the authorities of the school that they are financially incapacitated to pay the school fees owing to the lockdown. Also, in case of any grievance, the families of the students are asked to approach the appropriate authorities which again shifts the onus on the families of the students in these times of pandemic wherein the masses of the country are constrained not just financially but also in movement and social capital.
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