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Reduce fees


Schools in Jammu and Kashmir have been, more or less, closed since August 2019. That is over 21 months of almost zero in-person classroom activity. First the lockdown after the abrogation of Article 370 and then the raging pandemic, these months have been quite a struggle for everyone in Kashmir. Children too have been impacted by it. At the start of this year, one hoped that the situation would improve and that schools will finally reopen. They did but only for a few weeks before the second wave of the pandemic hit us hard. Cases shot up and the death toll too rose meteorically in a matter of a few weeks only. As a result, Jammu and Kashmir government shut all schools, colleges, coaching institutes, industrial training and other institutes till May 31. There is a lockdown enforced across Kashmir and with it the economic activity has come to a grinding halt. Amid this, schools are continuing with online classes, an exercise that has continued for a year and a half now. It is beyond any doubt that these online classes can in no way replicate the in-person classes but considering the situation, they are the only option that schools and parents have. During the last 21 months, schools demanded and got the tuition fees they used to get from the parents in normal days, even though the cost to run such institutions decreased. However, schools asking for full tuition fees from now onwards does not make much sense. A similar observation was made by the Supreme Court on Monday which said that educational institutions must reduce fees as their running costs have come down considering the COVID lockdown for the last one year due to which the campus’ have remained closed. A bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari, according to a report, said the management of educational institutions should be sensitive to the problems faced by people due to the pandemic and take steps to provide succour to students and their parents in these harsh times. The apex court observed: “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 a substantially long period during the academic year 2020-21. Resultantly, the school management must have saved overheads and recurring costs on various items such as petrol/diesel, electricity, maintenance cost, water charges, stationery charges, etc.” While adjudicating a batch of pleas of private unaided schools of Rajasthan against the state government’s direction to them to forgo 30% of tuition fees during the pandemic, the bench held that there is no law giving mandate to the state government to pass such an order but agreed that the schools had to reduce the fees.