Gujarat HC lashes State Govt over MBBS fee, seeks why not waive fees of medical colleges
Ahmedabad: Reprimanding Gujarat Government for its "double standards" concerning the collection of fees in private and government institutions, the Gujarat High Court has quashed no-fee diktat for private schools. The court questioned why the state government had not waived off fees at government institutions, specifically its medical colleges; and ordered the government and private educational institutes to hold talks and reach an amicable solution where every stakeholder's interests were taken care of.
This observation comes on a batch of petitions filed by self-financing and private school associations and federations against the Gujarat government's no fee order.
As per the order issued on July 16 by the state government, schools would not levy online education charges on parents during this academic year and the money so would have to be returned. It had also prohibited private schools from taking any type of fees from the students until the regular functioning resumed.
Further, those schools which had taken tuition fee and other fees from parents, during the period, would have to return this by adjusting it in the regular fees when they resumed functioning.
Condemning the state's arbitrary decision, the bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala highlighted the double standards of the state government regarding fees to be paid by the students. The court further sought why the same yardstick is not applied to government institutes if sacrifice is asked for in the name of teaching being a noble profession.
The court asked the government,
"If teaching is a noble and charitable cause as stated in the impugned resolution, why does the State not take steps to waive the collection of tuition fees of colleges. Why should the waiver not be for all educational institutions, schools, and colleges, both? For instance, there are many medical colleges operated by societies and trusts established by the state. Why should the state not exempt fees at such medical colleges and other private medical and engineering colleges?"
It observed that as there was no alternate educational system in place in such a public health crisis, at this juncture, online teaching was the best alternative as education of children should continue for their well-being.
The court also held that managing education remotely was a tedious job and the efforts and hard work of the schools should not be ignored. As professionals, they must be paid for their time and service justly, it added.
The HC then advised the educational institutes that they must be conscious of the economic instability faced by the students' families and they needed to adopt a non-profit outlook for the next few months and be compassionate.
Disposing off the petitions, the HC ruled that it would be too much to say that private school shall not demand fees. At the same time, it was expected that the government and the school federations sit across the table and arrive at some understanding with an open mind and an open heart to resolve all the issues amicably and following this, a fresh government resolution be issued.
The court further stated non-payment of fees would badly affect standards of education, and it could prove fatal for smaller schools,
"Expecting smaller institutions to bear their own expenses without receipt of tuition fees will force many institutions to shut down permanently. If such institutions shut down, the fate of students studying at such schools will be at stake and the parents of such students will have no option but to enroll them in bigger schools that charge higher fees when schools are reopened for students."
Subsequently, the court quashed the July 16 order issued by the state government and questioned why was it not sparing students of engineering and medical colleges, reports IANS.
Commenting on the issue, the Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, State Education Minister told TOI, " We will have an open-ended discussion with the school authorities regarding the court order. The State Government will make efforts to provide relief to parents and students who cannot afford tuition fees. The government had a discussion in March with the school management about the Covid-19 pandemic. At the meeting, they had agreed t not raise tuition fee for one year."