Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has asked Principal Secretary to Government, School Education Department, to take “immediate and clear view” regarding transport charges from students during the covid-19 pandemic.
Disposing of a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Ali Mohammad Magrey and Vinod Chatterji said that the court also expects the Principal Secretary to take a clear view regarding one of the clauses in a circular issued by him which is regarding “no school shall deny access to the online education material/ classes to poor/deserving students unable to pay school fees due to prevailing situation.”
The petition was filed by one advocate Mudasir Nazir Shah, seeking directions from the court to debar the school managements from the collection of fees from the month of March till the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. He had also sought directions to the concerned authorities to refund the fee if already collected from the students.
However, the Principal Secretary, represented by Additional Advocate General Mir Suhail submitted before that the Government was already seized of the situation.
In fact, he submitted the Principal Secretary has already taken some measures for the benefit of the student community as well as the schools and their staff.
He referred to the May 14 circular regarding the instructions on charging of tuition fee etc. by recognised unaided private schools during Covid-19 lockdown period.
The circular states that only tuition fees shall be charged from students on monthly basis instead of quarterly basis for the lockdown period.
“No fees hike shall be made during academic session 2020-21,” it reads, adding “Annual fees, if any, can be charged monthly on pro rata basis, after schools reopen.”
The circular also states that “no school shall deny access to the online education material or classes to poor and deserving students unable to pay school fees due to prevailing situation.”
“The petitioner (Mudasir Nazir Shah) seems to be wholly oblivious of the Circular, inasmuch as not an inkling is made about it in the petition. Be that as it may, (AAG) Suhail is right in saying that the competent authority is seized of the matter,” the court said, according to an order.
However, the court said that the Circular seems to have left it to the discretion of the school authorities to decide who are the ‘poor/deserving students’ to be entitled to the benefit of (the particular) clause in the Circular. Furthermore, the court said, AAG Suhail has not been able to state clearly what view has ultimately being taken vis-à-vis the transport charges by the government since no student is presently utilizing these services of the private schools.
“It would have been in the best interests of the students’ community if the Principal Secretary would have taken immediate and clear view concerning these two issues. Nevertheless it is not too late,” the court said, adding, “it is expected that Principal Secretary would take immediate and clear view concerning the two issues.”
While disposing of the petition, the court also left it open for the petitioner to approach the Principal Secretary if he still has any grievance or plea left. “It is expected that if any such representation is made by the petitioner, the Principal Secretary to Government, School Education Department, will accord due consideration to the same keeping all the circumstances in view.”