As the Covid-19 pandemic compelled closure of colleges with a shift to on-line lessons, the Supreme Court on Monday stated academic establishments must reduce fees as their operating prices have come down with numerous services offered on campus remaining closed.
A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari stated the administration of academic establishments ought to be delicate to the issues confronted by folks as a result of pandemic and take steps to supply succour to college students and their dad and mom in these harsh occasions. It stated insisting on fee for services not offered to college students would quantity to profiteering which must be prevented by the colleges.
“In law, the school management cannot be heard to collect fees in respect of activities and facilities which are, in fact, not provided to or availed of by its students due to circumstances beyond their control. Demanding fees even in respect of overheads on such activities would be nothing short of indulging in profiteering and commercialisation. It is a well-known fact and judicial notice can also be taken that due to complete lockdown, schools were not allowed to open for substantially long period during the academic year 2020-21. Resultantly, the school management must have saved overheads and recurring cost on various items such as petrol/diesel, electricity, maintenance cost, water charges, stationery charges, etc,” the bench stated.
While adjudicating a batch of pleas of personal unaided faculties of Rajasthan in opposition to the state authorities’s path to them to forgo 30% of tuition fees throughout the pandemic, the bench held that there isn’t any legislation giving mandate to the state authorities to cross such an order however agreed that the colleges needed to reduce the fees.
Accordingly, the appellants are justified in assailing the order by the director, secondary education and must succeed. However, that doesn’t give licence to the appellants to be inflexible and never be delicate concerning the aftermath of the pandemic. The college administration supposedly engaged in doing charitable exercise of imparting schooling, is anticipated to be responsive and alive to that state of affairs and take mandatory remedial measures to mitigate the hardship suffered by college students and their dad and mom. It is for the varsity administration to reschedule fee of school fees in such a approach that not even a single scholar is neglected or denied alternative of pursuing his/her schooling, in order to effectuate the adage— dwell and let dwell,” the bench stated.
The dad and mom, who’re demanding minimize in fees, advised the bench that the colleges have saved colossal sum of money throughout the on-line lessons in the direction of electrical energy prices, water prices, stationery prices and different miscellaneous prices that are required for bodily operating of the varsity.
Agreeing with the dad and mom’ rivalry, the bench stated, “Indeed, overheads and operational prices so saved could be nothing, however an quantity undeservedly earned by the varsity with out providing such services to the scholars throughout the related interval … the precept of quid professional quo must come into play. However, no correct (factual) empirical knowledge has been furnished by both aspect concerning the extent to which such financial savings have been or may have been made or advantages derived by the varsity administration. Without insisting for mathematical exactitude approach, we’d assume that the varsity administration(s) must have saved round 15 per cent of the annual college fees.”
Granting aid to college students, the bench stated the fees ought to have been refixed by the regulating authority however determined to cross order for minimal 15 p.c minimize to settle the difficulty as soon as and for all.
“The appellants (college administration of the personal unaided faculties) shall gather annual college fees from their college students as mounted beneath the Act of 2016 for the educational yr 201920, however by offering deduction of 15 per cent on that quantity in lieu of unutilised services by college students throughout the related interval of educational yr 2020-21,” it stated.
The court docket additionally directed the colleges to not debar any scholar from attending both on-line lessons or bodily lessons on account of nonpayment of fees, arrears/excellent fees.