The court also allowed schools to charge admission fee in two installments in six months and further directed that teachers in these schools would have to be paid 70% of their salaries.
The high court was hearing a petition from Independent Schools’ Association, Chandigarh, with 78-member schools in Punjab and Chandigarh. The directions have been passed with respect to schools in Punjab.
Schools’ counsel Ashish Chopra said fee could be charged quarterly or annually as per schools’ rules and it could have components such as tuition fee, various funds and transport charges etc.
The court was told that director school education on May 14 came out with a direction that schools can only charge tuition fee during lockdown and not building, transportation and meals charges. The schools were also directed not to cut salaries of teachers.
Schools had told court that both these conditions are contradictory as parents are to be given concession of not depositing the full fee and schools are being directed not to reduce the salary of teachers. He had also demanded that private schools deposit funds to the government under ‘Reserved Fund’, with a total corpus of Rs 77 crore at present. But schools are not being helped by government even for sanitisation, he said.
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The May 14 order from the government came after complaints of schools asking parents to deposit fee even as state was under curfew due to Covid-19 outbreak.
The government counsel had reasoned that schools charge fee under different heads and transportation charges are always separate and this cannot be made a ground to seek changes in the May 14 order.
Asking the government to respond to issues raised in the petition, the high court bench of justice Ritu Bahri directed that as an interim measure, admission fee should be paid in two equal installments in six months and the 70% of the total school fee will be charged from parents. The bench also asked the state counsel to apprise the court on the next date of hearing on June 12 as to how the state could help the private schools with ‘Reserved Fund’.
Other issues raised by the schools are about validity of various instructions passed by the state administration from time to time since March with regard to not increasing school fee, deferring collection of school fee in view of Covid-19 outbreak and not sending reminders to parents to pay the fee. The association had also argued that the government order came even as schools had held online classes during the lockdown period.