Cannot bar child from taking exam mid-session due to fee non-payment: Delhi HC

Delhi HC said that not allowing student to take board exams due to non-payment of fee will be an infringement of his right to life, education.

Delhi High Court. (Picture: Shutterstock)Delhi High Court. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Press Trust of India | January 19, 2023 | 06:59 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Education is an important right "encompassed under right to life" and a child cannot be made to suffer by barring him from attending school or taking examinations in the middle of an academic session on the ground of non-payment of fees, the Delhi High Court has said.

The court’s observation came on a petition by a class 10 student of a private unaided school here whose name was struck off the roll due to non-payment of fees and who sought directions to be permitted to sit in the upcoming CBSE board examinations.

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While taking a “compassionate and sympathetic view” of the plea, Justice Mini Pushkarna said not allowing a student to take examinations, especially board examinations, will be an infringement of his rights akin to the right to life. She therefore directed that the student be allowed to take the board examinations. The petitioner claimed he was unable to pay his school fees regularly on account of the financial losses faced by his father following the Covid-induced lockdowns.

The court observed that if the petitioner is unable to pay the fees, he “certainly does not have a right to continue education in the school in question” but he “cannot be tormented in this manner in the middle of the academic session”. To balance the interest of both the parties, the court said the petitioner should pay some amount towards the fees payable to the school. It directed the student to pay Rs 30,000 to the school within four weeks.

“Education has been held to be essentially a charitable object, a kind of service to the community...A child cannot be made to suffer and not be allowed to attend classes or barred from taking examinations in the middle of an academic session on the ground of non-payment of fees,” said the court in an order passed this week. “Education is the foundation, which shapes the future of a child and which in turn shapes the future of the society in general. Therefore, not allowing a student to take examinations, especially the Board Examinations, would be infringement of the rights of a child akin to Right to Life as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India," the court said.

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It said the Supreme Court has expanded the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution and education is "certainly one of the important rights which would be encompassed under right to life". The school told the court that a large sum towards fees totalling over Rs 3 lakh was due and payable not only by the petitioner but also his sister who passed out in the last academic session.

Being a private unaided school, it was not possible for the school to impart education if students do not pay their fees regularly, it said. The court said in Indian society, board examinations were critical and the petitioner’s academic year cannot be allowed to be wasted. “A child’s future cannot be allowed to be spoiled and blemished by barring him/ her from taking examinations, especially at such a crucial juncture..In the context of Indian Society, Class 10th and Class 12th Board Examinations are vitally important and critical, having decisive repercussions and bearing on the future of a student,” the court observed.

“The petitioner cannot be directed to take admission in a new school, when the current academic session has almost ended and the Board Examinations are round the corner. Not allowing the petitioner to take up the Board Examinations would put the petitioner at a great hardship and the petitioner would suffer irreparable harm if he is not allowed to take up the examination,” stated the court.

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