Amicably settle fee issue with parents instead of turning it into legal battle: HC asks schools

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Mumbai, Jul 8 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Thursday said the endeavour of schools across Maharashtra in the present COVID-19 pandemic situation should be to amicably settle the fee-related issues with parents instead of debarring students from attending online classes and turning it into a legal battle.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar, which raised concerns over students being debarred from attending online school over non-payment of fees and claimed that schools cannot claim fees for facilities that are not being used by students during the pandemic.

The plea sought a direction to schools to reduce their fees by 50 per cent.

The court on Thursday allowed two associations – Unaided Schools Forum and Maharashtra English Schools Trustees Association – to intervene in the petition and directed them to file their affidavits.

Appearing for the Unaided Schools Forum, senior advocate J P Sen told the court that schools are now allowing concessions for parents who are unable to pay the fees as a result of financial constraints posed due to the pandemic.

The bench then noted that such issues should be resolved amicably instead of debarring any student.

“Don't debar the student or not allow him or her to not attend classes. Mitigate the issue in some manner. Fee issue is not something that should be turned into a legal issue. It can be amicably settled and worked out,” the court said.

The school management can take it face-to-face with the concerned parent and resolve it, the bench said, adding that it does not want the student to litigate.

“This is not a happy situation. In the pandemic, when many families are facing problems, the approach should be different,” the court said.

Additional government pleader Geeta Shastri informed the court that the state government has set up divisional fee regulatory committees in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik and if any parent has a complaint against the school, then they can approach the local committee.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on July 16. PTI SP NP NP

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