U’khand HC: Children with no internet access cannot be forced to pay tuition fee

Unaided private schools in the state were charging fees and conducting online classes for KG level as well


The Uttarakhand High Court gave an order restraining private unaided schools in the state from charging tuition to students who are unable to attend online classes. The state government, vide an order dated May 5, allowed private unaided schools to charge only tuition fees in lieu of conducting online classes. They were prohibited from charging any other fees and were also required to pay salaries to their staff from their own funds.

The two petitions before the court highlighted that some schools were coercing parents to pay tuition fees even though the government order had made the payment voluntary and some schools were conducting online classes for kindergarten children. This was seen by the court as a “ruse” being adopted to collect tuition fees from gullible parents.

The court observed, “since the State of Uttarakhand is a hilly and poor State, several of its inhabitants lack internet access resulting in their children not being able to participate in the online classes conducted by the schools, despite which they are being forced to pay the tuition fees for their children.”

While the court took into consideration the submission of the respondent schools that they were facing unprecedented situation whereby they had huge expenses to incur which included continued payment of salary to their staff, rent, maintenance and so on, it also pointed out that times of crisis like these would require the haves to extend a helping hand to the have-nots.

The court also pointed out that “A statutory obligation is cast on private unaided schools, under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, to provide free education to certain categories of students who can ill-afford to pay the fees.”

The court observed that the intention of the G.O. dated May 2 was to ease the burden on parents who “who do not even have the means to earn their livelihood in this period of crisis, in being required to pay the huge fees which these private institutions charge”.

The court then issued the following directions to ensure effective and proper implementation of G.O. dated May 2:

i. The State Government shall appoint the District Education Officer and the Block Development Officer, in each district, to be the Nodal Officers to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay tuition fees by private schools.

ii. Wide publicity shall be given in the media informing the public at large, in the State, that they can address their grievance in this regard to the Nodal Officers.

iii. On receipt of any such complaints, the concerned Nodal Officers shall take prompt action against the erring educational institutions who are coercing parents, to pay the tuition fees of their children, though the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 expressly stipulates that payment of tuition fees is voluntary.

iv. Since the Government Order dated 02.05.2020 enables only those institutions which run online classes to collect tuition fees, it is only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, who would be required to pay the tuition fee, if they choose to do so.

v. Children, who do not have access to the online course, cannot be asked to pay the tuition fee. vi. It does appear that subtle means are being adopted by these private institutions to force parents to pay the tuition fees. Since payment of tuition fee by students is voluntary, none of the private schools shall send e-mails or WhatsApp messages or any form of communication to the parents calling upon them to pay the tuition fees.

vii. The Secretary, School Education, shall call for information from all the District Education Officers regarding the number of private schools, in their respective districts, which offer online courses, and the number of students who have access to such online courses. Information shall be obtained from each of these private schools as to whether tuition fees is being collected even from those students who have no access to the online course offered by the schools, and whether these schools have collected tuition fees from such students also. This information shall not only be collected from students of Class 1 to Class 10, but also with regards children who are undergoing their Upper Kindergarten. The Secretary, School Education, shall submit a detailed report in this regard to this Court by the next date of hearing.

viii. The Secretary, School Education, shall also furnish information regarding online classes being conducted by private schools for Upper Kindergarten students. He shall consider the wisdom in conducting such online programmes for these children in Upper Kindergarten, examine whether this is just a ruse to collect tuition fee from them, and issue appropriate directions, to all such private schools, in this regard as he considers appropriate.

The complete order can be read here.



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