The Supreme Court on Friday refused to hear a petition by parents from eight states demanding a moratorium on payment of school fees till lifting of lockdown and lamented the fact that such matters have to reach court for redress without being addressed at the executive level.
Asking the parents to approach their respective high courts, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said, “We find it very odd that we have to hear such matters. This must be tackled by the executive.”
The bench rued that the courts were getting drawn into many things that rested within the executive domain. It cited the example of migrant workers, Covid testing fees and now, the issue of charging school fees. “At the moment we do not know what to do. In such matters, even though problems may vary from state to state, parties approach this court and get disappointed when we refuse to issue notice.”
The petitioners, represented by advocate Mayank Kshirsagar, informed the court that at present there was no uniformity with regard to payment of fees with seven high courts of the country taking a different take on the matter.
The bench, also comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy and AS Bopanna said, “These are sad situations. We don’t want to reject your petition on merits but why don’t you approach your jurisdictional high courts. Situation can vary from state to state and even district to district.”
The petition by a group of ten parents from Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, and Uttarakhand also demanded facilities to be provided for socially and economically backward students to cope up with the online classes till the lockdown was in force.
They even sought a moratorium on payment of fees either from April to June or till such time the schools reopen. Most petitioners claimed that they faced tremendous financial and emotional hardships and will be forced to withdraw their children if forced to deposit fees.
The parents further exposed the ineffectiveness of conducting online classes as most families do not have either computers or internet. It quoted the National Sample Survey (NSS) data of 2017-18, according to which, only 4.4 percent rural households and 23 percent urban households have access to computers. Interestingly, the internet penetration is restricted to 14.9 percent in the rural sector and 42 percent in the urban sector, the NSS data stated.