On May 31 2021, the Delhi High Court in the case of Action Committee Unaided Recognized Private Schools v. Directorate of Education, nullified two Delhi Government orders passed on 18th April and 28th August 2020 respectively, the orders were passed in the context of COVID-19 lockdown to restrict the private schools from gathering Annual Charges and Development Fees from students. A petition was moved by Action Committee Unaided Recognized Private Schools [approx of 450 private unaided schools] before Justice Jayant Nath seeking action against the Government order.
The court said "The impugned acts are prejudicial to the said Schools and would cause an unreasonable restriction in their functioning. In the above facts and circumstances, the impugned orders dated 18.04.2020 and 28.08.2020 issued by the respondent to the extent that they forbid the petitioner/postpone collection of Annual Charges and Development Fees are illegal and ultra vires the powers of the respondent stipulated under the DSE Act and the Rules. The orders to that extent are quashed."
The complaint of the petitioner that the schools were not permitted to charge the full expressed expenses for example not permitted to charge the Annual Charges and Development Fees. Besides, it was the case of the petitioner that the respondent authority was diminishing their privileges to fix their charges and to confine the collection thereof to specific heads/amounts is illegal and with no power or jurisdiction. The petitioner also claimed that the orders passed by the Directorate of Education were arbitrary and unconstitutional.
The Respondent argued that the school associations could not increase the fee amount without the DOE's permission. It was also submitted that considering the intense monetary pressing factor and weight on the overall population inferable from the Pandemic, the petitioner forcing the people to pay the fee amount would be harsh, unreasonable and unjust.
The High Court said that the role of DOE was to prevent the commercialization of education and not to reduce or cut down the established fee amount without the presence of commercialization or any exploitation.
The court thoroughly examined all expenses of the schools and found that schools were not making a profit out of the annual charges.
"Costs like rents, taxes, travelling, conveyance, insurance charges, remuneration of auditors, repair and maintenance of building and fix and support of building and upkeep of gear, furniture and installation are altogether expenses which will keep on being caused by the schools regardless of the physical shut down. In case, the said repairs and expenses are not done, it will undoubtedly make harm the structure, foundation and working of the schools. Further, it can't be said that the school building is closed. The structure would stay useful for authoritative reasons and in any event, contingent upon realities and conditions of the case, for conducting online classes, etc."
The court concluded by saying that the respondent was not authorised to cut down the annual charges established by the school and quashed the orders.