The Supreme Court today issued notices to a Delhi private school over a plea by two students allegedly on the verge of being terminated for their inability to pay fees following the death of their father earlier this year due to Covid. The court has also notified both the Central and state governments on the matter.
The plea states that the siblings — a 15-year-old girl and her nine-year-old brother — may have to drop out of school owing to their financial condition. Their father, a professor with a private college, died in May this year while their mother, a homemaker, has no source of income. They have not paid their fees since April this year.
The two sought directions to the Centre and the Delhi government to waive off their school fees and ensure the continuation of their education in the same school.
While issuing the notices, a two-judge bench of Justices LN Rao and Hemant Gupta, however, observed that the applicants do not belong to the “lower strata” of the society and that its earlier orders were meant to protect children in need of care and protection.
“We’ll issue the notice but we’re not very sure if that will help you. Once we start entertaining petitions like this, a number of people will come rushing. We’re giving general directions to people who are in need,” the court said today.
It had yesterday said the government must ensure ‘Covid orphans’ do not drop out of school due to their inability to pay fees. It had, however, emphasised that children who don’t need assistance should not be offered funds.
The bench’s observation today came after noting that the father of the two children used to be a professor in a private college.
However, Shobha Gupta, the petitioner’s counsel, argued that mother of the children was finding it difficult to pay the fees. She said the Delhi government may assess their case. The lawyer also submitted that it was necessary to know whether government schemes were conditional or meant to support all Covid-affected children unconditionally.
The petitioners said the school administration had orally agreed to relax up to 25 per cent of the fees as a personal favour, though not as a policy. This assurance, however, was yet to be implemented.
Besides, the school authorities have allegedly refused to disclose the results of the tests the two appeared for in July and August till they pay up.
The matter came up as part of a larger case that court was hearing suo motu on helping children orphaned by the pandemic.
Up to 645 children had lost both their parents to Covid between April and May this year alone as the second wave peaked, the Women and Child Development Ministry had said last month.