HC permits private schools to collect 35% more fees

The Madras High Court on Wednesday permitted private schools and colleges in the State to collect 35% more fees, apart from the 40% already permitted, for the current academic year, since the State government could not give the court an assurance that institutions would be allowed to reopen before the end of this year.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh said private schools could collect the additional 35% of fees on or before February 28. He also gave them the liberty to collect this fee, in two installments, if they prefer to do so, after issuing an appropriate circular to the parents.

He directed the Registry to list the cases for further hearing on March 1.

The interim orders were passed on a batch of cases filed by a few associations representing the private institutions.

The petitioners had challenged a government order (G.O.) issued in April, directing them not to coerce parents into paying fees for this academic year, despite the institutions remaining shut due to COVID-19.

‘Not justified’

In their submissions before the court, the institutions said they were conducting online classes and had to pay salaries to the teaching as well as non-teaching staff. Hence, it was not justified on the part of the government to have prevented them from collecting fees, they said. On the other hand, the government said the G.O. was passed in the interest of people facing financial difficulties during the pandemic.

Hence, to balance the interests of parents as well as private institutions, the judge on July 17 permitted the latter to collect 40% of fees before August 31, and ordered that the rest could be collected after the institutions reopen. However, now that there was no sign of reopening of the institutions in the near future, he permitted the institutions to collect 35% more.

The judge also closed suo motu contempt of court proceedings initiated against a couple of schools after they told the court the reasons for having collected more than 40% of fees from some of the parents. He adjourned the contempt proceedings against few other schools for filing of affidavits on their behalf.

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