The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay a Delhi High Court order allowing unaided private schools to collect annual fee and development charges from students, reported PTI.

The court also directed the petitioners to raise their grievances before a division bench of the High Court, which was examining the order issued by the single-judge bench.

On May 31, a single-judge bench of the High Court had quashed Delhi’s government’s orders of April and August 2020 stopping unaided schools from collecting annual charges and development fees. The judge had said that the order issued by the Delhi government’s Directorate of Education was illegal and “ultra vires” the applicable laws, reported NDTV.

In its order, the High Court had said the Delhi government cannot indefinitely postpone the collection of annual fees as it would unreasonably restrict the functioning of the unaided schools. Referring to a Supreme Court verdict involving the Indian School in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur, the High Court had said that the schools could collect less than 15% in fees during the relevant period of the 2020-’21 academic year.

It had directed that the amount would have to be paid in six monthly installments from June 10.

The Delhi government and other petitioners, including parents and students, had then appealed against the verdict before a division bench of the High Court, which too did not stay the single bench order.

The Delhi government contended that the single bench order was based on incorrect facts and laws. The government argued that its order to stop levying of annual fees was issued in the larger public interest because the lockdown had triggered a financial crisis for lakhs of parents in the city.

It said that “charging fees is not the only source of augmenting the income”, adding that if schools are left unregulated, they will determine their own fee structure “as per their whims and fancies”.

On the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Jodhpur school case, the government had argued that the order was not applicable because of different laws in Rajasthan and Delhi.

Students had said in their appeals that establishment costs, such as repairing of buildings, administrative expenses, rent and hostel expenses, are not applicable when the schools are closed.

Schools across the country were shut down since the Covid-19 pandemic struck and classes are being held online. States can take a call on reopening schools to hold physical classes but most of them kept them closed amid fears of a third coronavirus wave.

Meanwhile, India reported 46,148 new coronavirus cases on Monday, taking the total number of infections since the outbreak of the pandemic in January 2020 to 3,02,79,331. The country’s toll rose by 919 to 3,96,730. India’s tally of active cases stood at 5,72,994, while the number of recoveries reached 2,93,09,607.

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