A group of 10 parents has filed a plea before Supreme Court seeking moratorium or deferment of the school fees from April-June or till the resumption of physical classes. The petitioners hail to Rajasthan, Odisha, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Delhi, and Maharashtra and are also seeking facilities for the socially and economically backward students.
The petition seeks a uniform direction from centre and states to direct the aided and unaided private schools to charge only the proportionate amount of fees as per the expenditure incurred on online virtual classes and not to charge other fees till the physical classes are resumed.
“The Petitioners belonging to different states of the country have come together being constrained to approach this Court seeking inter alia the protection of fundamental right to life as well as education guaranteed under the Constitution of India, 1950 which the children & students enrolled up to the Class XII of various Indian states are being deprived of due to supervening factors namely, the ongoing pandemic- COVID-19 period,” stated the plea.
Advocate Mayank Kshirsagar appearing for petitioners further added in the plea that the petitioners are also aggrieved apart from other issues as raised in the present petition by the unorganised and adversely influencing education imparted in the name of online classes, without addressing the supervening factors of incapacity of 25 percent EWS category students, adverse impact of education of children of unregulated online education for students of Standard Nursery to 5th and for other students as well.
The petition has also highlighted the issue that there is no uniformity in guidelines issued by different states. The matter is pending in seven High Courts and there are different orders issued by different High Courts leading to confusion among students and their parents across the country. Therefore petitioners are seeking uniform directions through the country on payment of school fees.
Parents have contended that online classes are not an effective tool to impart education as not all students have access to technological wherewithal.
The plea also asked the apex court to direct all the states to ensure proper education to the economically weaker section students and avoid any discrimination for access to a quality education. The plea also highlighted the technological hardships faced by economically weak students admitted under the 25 percent economically weaker section (EWS) quota by private schools under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education, 2009, also known as RTE Act.
After the global health watchdog World Health Organization (WHO) had declared COVID-19 a pandemic, India has announced nationwide lockdown on March 25, 2020 restricting all the activities including educational sector.