MUMBAI:The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra government to file reply to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which demanded that parents should be able to pay school fees in instalments in view of the economic stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of Justices S P Deshmukh and G S Kulkarni also asked the state to explain how people can approach the divisional fee regulatory panels constituted under the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011. The PIL, filed by BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar, demanded that the government should direct educational institutes to consider requests by parents on ”remitting” fees for 2020-21 and 2021-22 ”sympathetically” on case-to-case basis. The institutes should also be directed to allow parents to pay dues in instalments, it added.
Senior counsel Birendra Saraf, the petitioner’s lawyer, said that during the pandemic, several unaided schools increased their fees and also started charging extra for conducting online classes. This amounted to profiteering and schools must be restrained from overcharging, the PIL said. Many students have been unable to pay the fees on time due to various pandemic-related reasons and they must not be barred from attending classes, it added. The HC will hear the PIL further later this month.
Several high-end private schools in Bengaluru are also asking parents to take up loans if they are unable to pay fees. The Narayana Educational Institutions has circulated fliers for a loan-for-school fee scheme.