The Supreme Court has said it will not stay a Delhi High Court order banning collection of annual charges or fees from recognised private and unaided schools in the city till they physically re-open.
A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar refused to overturn a May 30 High Court order that said Delhi government orders of April and August 2020 forbidding collection of fees was "illegal" and "ultra vires" the applicable laws.
The court also directed the petitioners to raise their grievances before a division bench of the High Court that is still examining last month's order, which was issued by a single-judge bench.
The Supreme Court had been approached by the Delhi government after the High Court quashed Directorate of Education (DoE) orders issued in April and August last year.
The High Court had said the state government could not indefinitely postpone collection of annual fees as it would unreasonably restrict their functioning.
The court also referred to a Supreme Court judgement - involving the Indian School in Rajasthan's Jodhpur - and said schools could collect fees less 15 per cent - in lieu of unutilised facilities during the relevant period of the 2020/21 academic year.
The court said amounts payable would have to be paid in six monthly installments from June 10.
The order was appealed in the High Court by the Delhi government and others, including students and parents; the contention was that the decision was based on incorrect facts and law.
The Delhi government contended its orders were issued in the larger public interest because the lockdown had triggered a financial crisis for lakhs of parents in the city.
It said "charging fees (by schools) is not the only source of augmenting the income" and that schools, if unregulated, will determine their own fee structure "as per their whims and fancies". It also said reference to the Supreme Court order was invalid because of differing education laws in the two states.
Appeals on behalf of the students claimed that establishment costs, like repairing of buildings, administrative expenses, rent and hostel expenses, are not applicable when the schools are closed.
Schools across the country have been closed to physical classes since the pandemic struck, with classes being held online.
The decision on re-opening them had been left to states, most of whom have kept them closed for now, amid fear of a third wave of infections that could target children.
Last week the centre said "we can only have this (re-opening of schools) when a large part of the population is protected" and cautioned against opening schools because daily cases are falling.
With input from PTI