Bombay HC: Private unaided schools may take fees in installments

The Bombay High Court (HC) ruled that private unaided schools in Maharashtra may take fees in instalments and also consider online payment, amid COVID-19 pandemic. This comes after the court on June 26 had stayed for six weeks the state government's May 8 order barring such schools from hiking fees.

Maintaining that the Maharashtra government does not have the power to issue an order barring private unaided schools from hiking fees for six weeks for the academic year 2020-21 in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bombay High Court has said that it was mindful of the difficulties faced by the parents and that the schools may consider allowing them to pay the fees online and in reasonable installments.

The HC on June 26 had stayed for six weeks a May 8 state government resolution (GR) that had barred private schools from hiking fees. The GR had also directed the schools not to collect yearly one-time fees for academic years 2019-20 and 2020-21 and give parents an option to deposit the same on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Aggrieved by the decision, educational institutions across the state had approached the HC.

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The state government, however, had submitted to the court that it has powers to take such decisions under the Fees Act and Disaster Management Act and the GR was as per law.

After hearing the submissions, the court said, “We are of the prima facie view that the impugned May 8 government resolution is without jurisdiction.”

It added that in view of hardships faced by parents, the management of the private schools can seek fees in installments. It noted, “Having said so, we are also mindful of the difficulties faced by the parents in these testing times. Therefore, we feel that management of the private unaided schools may consider providing options to the Students/parents to pay the fee in such installments as is considered reasonable and also to allow them the option to pay the fee online.”

The bench had stayed the operation of the May 8 GR until further orders, pending final hearing and disposal of the pleas. It posted the matter for further hearing on August 11.