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University Agreed To Give 30% Concession: Madras High Court Disposes Plea By Students Of School Of Excellence In Law

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
1 March 2021 11:35 AM GMT
University Agreed To Give 30% Concession: Madras High Court Disposes Plea By Students Of School Of Excellence In Law
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The Madras High Court has disposed of a PIL filed by over 90 students of the School of Excellence in Law, affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, challenging levy of fees for certain unutilized facilities in the academic year 2020-21, when academic learning was restricted to online classrooms, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A Single Bench of Justice B. Pugalendhi...

The Madras High Court has disposed of a PIL filed by over 90 students of the School of Excellence in Law, affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, challenging levy of fees for certain unutilized facilities in the academic year 2020-21, when academic learning was restricted to online classrooms, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A Single Bench of Justice B. Pugalendhi disposed of the matter after the University informed that it's Finance Committee has decided to grant 30% concession in the fee (other than Admission fee, Tuition fee, & AIR Cafe fee) payable during the academic year 2020-2021.

The Single Judge recorded that 30% concession will be given under the following heads— Library fee, Internet fee, Infrastructural faciities fee, Class Amenities fee, Sports fee, Moot Court fee for students of the first year to the final year of all 5 year / 3 year LLB (Hons) and LLM students.

The order stated,

"The learned counsel for the respondents by relying upon the Letter (MS)No. 318 dated 08.12.2020 would submit that considering the situation, the Government has also granted waiver of 30% fee to the students for the academic year 2020-2021.

Recording the said submissions made by the learned counsel for the respondents that the government has already awarded 30% fee concession for the academic year 2021, this writ petition is disposed of."

Background

The students had challenged two Circulars issued by the Law School: (i) on August 29— calling upon the students to pay Internet Fee, Library Fee, AIR Café fee, Infrastructural Facilities fee, Sports fee, Moot Court Fee, etc.; and (ii) on September 14 whereby the representations for reduction in fees was rejected and instead, the deadline for payment of full fees was extended.

They submitted that the various heads of accounts apart from the tuition fee are "arbitrarily charged" while the academic activity is restricted purely to online learning. Thus, it is a violation of their right to education enshrined in Art 21A of the Constitution.

Further, they argued that the valuation so arrived for collecting the utility fee per annum by the Law School, when the facility itself is not put to use, should be in line with the actual no of working days after commencement of physical classes, excluding the working days conducted online.

On the final hearing of the Writ Petition, the Counsel appearing of the Petitioner contented that the facilities offered in the college are subject to the executive powers of the government conferred under the Disaster Management Act,2005.

They submitted,

"As the government has unfettered powers under the statute to cancel/abrogate any event during the course of pandemic, the fee must be valuated in consonance with the SOPs issued by the government at the given time. Any event which is likely to stand cancelled must be taken into account and the fee must be waived of for the same. E.g. : Sports fee, Cultural fee."

The University made a submission before the Court that taking into consideration of the ground realities and visualizing the financial difficulties faced by the students and parents due to sudden outbreak of COVID – 19, its Finance Committee has recommended to grant concession of 30% in the fee.

Advocates KM Mrithunjayan, AM Manav, A. Venkatesh, N. Zahid Ahmed, Senthil Kumar and Anbarasi R. appeared for the Petitioners.

Advocates K. Parameswaran and V. Vasantha Kumar for Respondents.

Case Title: Gopinath & Ors. v. State of Tami Nadu & Ors.

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