Private schools oppose Karnataka government plea to form panel on school fee

The State government on Tuesday faced stiff opposition from private unaided schools before the High Court of Karnataka over its plea seeking permission to set up a panel headed by a retired judge to look into the issue of fixation of fee for all categories of unaided private schools in the State for 2021-22.

Sticking to their firm contention that the State lacked authority in law to regulate fees at unaided private schools, associations of various schools pointed out that on the one hand the government wanted the schools to collect lower fee, while on the other it had issued a circular asking schools to pay minimum salary to teaching and non-teaching staff. These arguments were made before a Bench of Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum during a hearing on petitions filed by various associations of private unaided schools.

The petitioners had questioned the legality of the January 29 Government Order asking private unaided schools, including those affiliated to the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education and the Central Board of Secondary Education, to collect only 70% of the tuition fee collected in 2019-20 for the academic year 2020-21, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier, Advocate-General Prabhuling K. Navadgi pointed out that a large number of private unaided schools did not abide by the order and hence the government was now proposing to set up a panel for fixation of fee.

There are nearly 21,000 private unaided schools in the State, among the total of around 76,800 schools, and it is these schools that are demanding the full fee. The government intervened after taking note of the plight of parents whose economic condition was hit by the pandemic, he pointed out.

When the court orally indicated that it may not accept the government’s plea seeking permission to set up a committee, the Advocate-General said that at least the court could grant liberty to the government to initiate action against schools for not following the fee restrictions issued on January 29.

However, senior advocates representing the petitioners pointed out that the High Courts of Delhi and Bombay had already rejected the respective State governments’ similar decision on fee reduction in view of the pandemic. They said even the apex court had done so, in a Rajasthan case. School managements are offering fee reduction on a case-to-case basis depending on the economic condition of the parents, it was pointed out to the court.

Further hearing on the matter has been adjourned until July 22.

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