8 March 2022 3:59 PM GMT
Madras High Court has dismissed a batch of writ appeals filed against the single judge bench order dated 05.01.2022 in favour of Pondicheryy University collecting University Development Fund paid by students from the Individual colleges.The first bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy observed that the University can demand 'other charges' in ...
Madras High Court has dismissed a batch of writ appeals filed against the single judge bench order dated 05.01.2022 in favour of Pondicheryy University collecting University Development Fund paid by students from the Individual colleges.
The first bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy observed that the University can demand 'other charges' in addition to the fees stipulated in Section 27(e) Pondicherry University Act,1985. Therefore, the court dismissed the appeal by saying that the demand notices issued to colleges for University Development Fund are not beyond the University's competency since it is covered by Section 5(20) of the Act.
"The appellant counsel referred to Section 27 of the Act by taking note of the subject matters mentioned therein with regards to ordinances and not the powers of the University under Section 5 of the Act", the court pointed out.
The single bench judgment in 2020 had dismissed the plea by the appellant colleges filed in 2010 which challenged the imposition of Rs 1000/- as University Development Fund.
Today, while dictating the common order in the writ appeals filed against the common judgment of Single Bench, Madras High Court refused to grant the appellants'/ petitioners' prayer challenging the demand notices of University Development Fund (hereinafter 'U.D.F') at the rate of Rs 1000/- that must be collected from the students in reference to Pondicherry University Act,1985.
The counsel for the appellants in the current writ appeal further submitted that the University can only provide via Ordinances for the 'fees to be charged for courses of study in the University and for admission to the examinations, degrees and diplomas of the University.'
Referring to Section 27 of the Pondicherry University Act and specifically to sub-clause (e), the counsel further contended that the Act does not permit levy of any other fees other than those for the course of study/ admission etc.
Going by Section 27, the colleges argued that the respondent University has acted beyond the scope of its competency by the imposition of the University Development Fund. The counsel also submitted that the Academic Council of the University changed the word 'fees' to 'fund' via a regulation and started collecting the Development Fund beyond its competency and the single judge bench should have accepted the challenge against the same.
According to the petitioners, there is a heavy burden on the students to pay the U.D.F which was merely Rs 25/- initially. The amount was raised to Rs 1000/- in 2004. The petitioners/ appellants argued that the single judge bench did not pay heed to their submission that Academic Council has no power to amend the statutes of the Pondicherry University Act, 1985. Therefore, the petitioner/ appellant colleges prayed before the first bench to set aside the single bench order and the demand notices for U.D.F given to the colleges. The colleges also submitted that they haven't collected U.D.F from students after obtaining an interim order in their favour.
However, the University submitted that collection of U.D.F is not a new event but charges that are paid by colleges since 1988. The University also acknowledged that the U.D.F was Rs 25 in 1988 and it was enhanced to Rs 1000/- in 2004. Since the charge of U.D.F was a one-time event for students in their entire course duration, it was collected and paid by all colleges. The respondent also added that the challenge against U.D.F was made by the petitioners by solely referring to Section 27 of the Act while discarding Section 5 which talks about the powers of the University.
The respondent counsel specifically referred to Section 5(20) which says that the University shall have the power to demand and receive payment of fees and other charges.
According to the respondent University, the word 'other charges' includes Development Funds. Yet, to make things clear, the fee was clarified to be development funds and the executive council of the University amended the statutes as per Section 26 of the Act. The counsel also submitted that the decision of the Executive Council was not challenged by the college for a long time and that the burden to pay the fees rests upon the students and not the individual colleges.
After considering the rival submissions, the court, apart from those provisions referred by the counsels, also paid attention to Section 27 (q) ["all other matters which by this Act or the Statutes may be provided for by the Ordinances"] and noted as below:
" In view of the above, ordinances can cover subject matters (a) to (p) in Section 27 and all other matters under (q). "
After reading Section 27 of the Pondicherry University Act along with Section 5, the court concluded that the University can demand 'other charges' in addition to the fees stipulated in Section 27(e).
The court also observed that none of the colleges raised any objections against the collection of charges in the name of University Development Funds until they received demand notices from the University for payment of collected charges. There was an interim order in favour of the appellants/ petitioners which was rendered invalid by the dismissal of their writ petition ultimately.
"The fact remains that the colleges were paying the amount aforesaid since its inception...The entire amount of the University Development Fund is collected from students and it is not a burden on colleges. None of the students have come up for challenging University Development Fund though the colleges tried to argue that it is a burden for the poor students, without placing any facts and figures in support thereof. It is more so when University Development Fund will be used for the development of the University in all respects as otherwise, to manage the affairs of the colleges remains difficult in the absence of sufficient fund for it...The court does not find any reason to challenge the demand of University Development Fund", the court observed.
The court also added that the executive council can amend 'fees' to 'funds' and even if it's ignored, the U.D.F will fall under Section 5 of the Act. In view of the above, the court concluded that there are no grounds for interfering with the single bench order and no merits in the appeal even acter examining from all angles.
Case Title: Immaculate College Of Education For Women v. Pondicherry University & Anr. and Connected Matters
Case No: WA/409/2022 (Education) and Others
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 89
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