Over 90 students of the School of Excellence in Law, affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, have moved the Madras High Court, challenging levy of fees for certain unutilized facilities when academic learning has been restricted to online classrooms, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The plea challenges 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.
The students 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 have submitted that in the prevailing backdrop of pandemic COVID-19, their parents are burdened with undue charges when the services are not utilized or requisite at this point in time.
It is 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.
The plea states:
"The valuation to the aforesaid fee structure was arrived without taking into account the reopening/resumption of the physical classes are subject to uncertainty and further orders of the Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. Therefore, the valuation should have holistically taken into approbation the No. of working days lost during previous semester owing to the lockdown + No. of days lost during this academic year exclusive of the days spent on online classes."
The matter is posted for admission on September 28.
The writ is filed though Advocates KM Mrithunjayan, AM Manav, A. Venkatesh, Anbarasi R. and N Zahid Ahmed.