Bombay HC Quashes Petition by Unaided Schools to Stay the State’s Anti School Fee Hike Resolution

Bombay HC Quashes Petition by Unaided Schools to Stay the State’s Anti School Fee Hike Resolution

A handful of petitions filed against the Maharashtra Government’s General Resolution (GR) that barred private unaided schools from hiking their fees for the academic year 2020-21, has been quashed by the Bombay High Court

The petitions were disposed of by a bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni. Counsel for the unaided schools agreed that students whose parents have failed to pay the “increased component” in the fees for the 2020-21 academic year over the 2019-20 academic year will not be barred from attending online/offline classes or attending examinations. 

The State’s General Resolution on barring schools from hiking fees was passed on May 8, 2020, and was immediately challenged by unaided schools. In June, the High Court stayed the GR causing a significant uproar among parents. 

However, upon hearing a fresh plea by the State, the Supreme Court then sent the case back to the HC for ‘expeditious disposal’. In its current order, the HC said that it will vacate the stay issued by the previous order while a detailed order will be published later. The court was told by the State that the GR will operate prospectively. 

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These protections were provided by the State Government due to the prevailing financial downturn among citizens fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief was provided under the purview of the Disaster Management Act.  

The Association of Indian Schools, the Unaided School Forum, and others originally challenged the State’s GR last year. They said that member schools had already finalized the fees for the 2020-21 academic year in November 2019 for a period of five or 10 years as per the 

Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act or MEIR. This was formally implemented just prior to the May 2020 General Resolution.   

Representing the unaided schools, counsel Harish Salve, Milind Sathe, Pravin Samdani, and Prateek Seksaria said that the GR cannot apply to unaided schools as they are “being prospective”.

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With the HC now lifting the original stay on the order, the Maharashtra Government can now conduct an inquiry by taking Suo Motu cognizance or based on a complaint that details the school’s violation of the aforementioned MEIR Act. 

The State said last year that the GR was passed after receiving complaints from parents about school fee hikes. However, the court order in June 2020 said, “Being private educational institutions, they are not dependent on any kind of grant or assistance from the government. The expenses of the respective schools are met from the funds primarily collected from fees.”

The State Government also decided to offer parents the ability to pay the balance fee from 2019-20 and 2020-21 on instalments rather than paying the full amount outright while also asking schools for an online payments option.

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