Supreme Court Declines Stay on Calcutta High Court Direction To Reduce Private School Fees by 20%

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to stay the directions passed by the Calcutta High Court whereby private schools were asked to reduce their fees by a minimum of 20% and to not hike fee for the financial year 2020-21.
The apex court also left untouched the High Court direction that schools should not charge for non-essential services(such as laboratory, craft, sporting facilities or extracurricular activities) which the students are not availing on account of lack of physical functioning. The HC had also said that for the present financial year, only a maximum of five per cent excess of revenue over expenditure will be permissible for schools.
At the same time, the SC stayed the operation of the directions numbers 8 to 16 contained in paragraph 61 of the High Court judgment delivered on October 13.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah issued notice on a batch of petitions challenging the HC directions after observing that the matter required to be heard at length.
The HC further observed that the schools have incurred less expenditure due to the lockdown.
Assailing the HC order, Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted before the Supreme Court that the High Court transgressed its powers under Article 226 of the Constitution by directing private schools to reduce their fees.
“High Court cannot act like a super-regulatory authority”, he submitted.
He also took exception to the HC forming a committee to audit the accounts of the schools. The HC included the lawyer of the petitioner in the committee, Dr. Singhvi pointed out.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for another petitioner-school, submitted that the HC could not passed a blanket general order without taking into account the different situations of each and every school. There was no factual materials before the Court to order a blanket slashing down of fees by 20%.
The bench however expressed disinclination to interfere with the fee reduction.

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