The Supreme Court on Wednesday (October 28) refused to stay a Calcutta High Court order directing educational institutions to offer a minimum of 20% reduction in school fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The High Court had passed an order to this effect on October 13. The High Court's directed private schools in West Bengal not to increase tuition fees during financial year 2020-21. A minimum of 20% reduction in fees is to be allowed from April 2020 till the month following the reopening of schools for regular functioning. Sessions fees are permissible as long subject to the 80% maximum limit.

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For the financial year 2020-21, a maximum of 5% of the excess of revenue over expenditure would be permissible. In case a school incurred a loss as a result, they can make up for the loss during the financial years 2021-23, if regular functioning resumes by March 31, 2021.

Arguing for the appellant schools before the Supreme Court today, Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi stated that High Court had acted as a "super regulatory authority" in this case and had ignored that schools too had to incur expenses during the lockdown.

Manu Singhvi said, “Schools are having to face expenses even during lockdown. The order has been made binding even on parties who were not heard. Government has allowed sharing proportionate fees, which has been overridden by the High Court even thought there was no complaint. High Court has transgressed its powers and acts like a super regulatory authority under Article 226 of the Constitution by directing private schools to have a reduction in the fees being charged.”

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In its order, the High Court had also directed for the formation of a Committee to adjudicate grievances. The Committee comprises Senior Advocate Tilok Bose, the Principal or Headmistress of Heritage School, and Advocate Priyanka Agarwal.
Singhvi stated that the High Court's direction to form this committee, which will include the advocate for the petitioner, was "not acceptable at all."

The Supreme Court ultimately stayed the direction to form the committee.