Bombay High Court Restrains to Interfere In Govt.'s Decision to Bar Private Schools From Hiking Fees The Bombay High Court (HC) bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni in the case titled, Association of Indian Schools and Anr. (Petitioners) v. The State of Maharashtra (Respondent), left it to the State of Maharashtra Government to deal with complaints...
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Bombay High Court Restrains to Interfere In Govt.'s Decision to Bar Private Schools From Hiking Fees
The Bombay High Court (HC) bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni in the case titled, Association of Indian Schools and Anr. (Petitioners) v. The State of Maharashtra (Respondent), left it to the State of Maharashtra Government to deal with complaints stemming from the said Govt. decision on a case-by-case basis.
The HC has vacated the stay on the State Government's decision to bar an increase in school fees for the academic year 2020-21 which was imposed during lockdown period considering the pandemic.
The Court said, "It would be open to the education authorities to decide any issue arising from the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011 read with the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee)(Amendment) Act, 2018 (Act) and the impugned Government Resolution (GR) of 8 May 2020 with respect to any institution."
The State Govt. contended before the HC that all the educational institutions have determined their fee structure for the academic year 2020-2021 as per the amended provisions of the 2011 Act. It added that the fee structure has been accepted and implemented before the GR came into force.
Senior Advocate Anil Anturkar, representing the State, submitted that the GR prohibiting increase of fees for the academic year 2020-21 would be applied prospectively. He further added that the provisions of the amended Act of 2018 would not apply if the fee had been approved or the admission process has been initiated.
The petitioner contended that if the GR has no retrospective application then that would take care of one aspect of their grievances.
After hearing the parties at length and taking into account Section 10 of the Amended Act, the Court concluded that it was likely that the increase of fees of certain institutions may fall within the ambit of Section 10 or otherwise.
The order of HC reads, "Interest of justice would be sufficiently served if the State considers the issues in regard to each of such educational institutions, on case to case basis, in the event any application/complaint is received by the State, against any institution of violation by such institution of any of the provisions of the 2011 Act read with the provisions of the Amendment Act, 2018 or the Government Resolution dated 8 May 2020, or even suo motu upon receipt of any information in that behalf."
The Court further stated, "Having given our due consideration to the complexion of the issues arising in these proceedings, we are of the opinion that it may not be necessary for us to adjudicate these petitions on the prayers as made by the petitioners."
The HC added, "Suffice it to observe that these petitions can be disposed of leaving it open to the education authorities to decide any issue qua any of the institutions as may arise under the 2011 Act read with the Amendment Act, 2018 and the impugned Government Resolution dated 8th May 2020 in regard to the fees determined by any of such institutions, in the manner we propose to direct."
The HC further clarified that the event of the State receiving any complaint regarding education institution. Such an institution should not debar any student from attending online or physical classes or attending the examination on account of non-payment of hiked fees in the academic year 2020-21 or withhold the student's results.
The Court emphasized, "It is expressly clarified that what has been stated above does not entitle any parent to claim that the fees are not payable. It is further clarified that the above protection is only granted in the peculiar circumstances existing on account of the pandemic and therefore only for the Academic Year 2020-2021 and does not prevent the educational institutions from taking such actions as may be permissible in law against the students who are in arrears or have defaulted in payment of fees for the earlier academic years or subsequent academic years."
The Court stated that it would not interfere with the decision of the State Govt. and stated that all rights and contentions on the power of the State to conduct an inquiry into the violation of provisions of the Act were also kept open.