A plea has been filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court by students of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala (RGNUL) challenging the demand made for fee for the semester of August to December in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Challenging an Order dated June 20 wherein it was decided that the relief to students would merely include waiver of the annual increase in the tuition fee and a temporary postponement of the Mess Fee, the plea contends that the charging of full fees is an "insult to the injury suffered by the students at the hands of the Administration which is exhiting an inflexible stand towards the matter".
Filed by Advocates Varun Issar, Sehej Sandhwalia and Sarthak Gupta the students of the law school, Aditya Kashyap, Shubham Shukla, Aviral Kumar Mishra, Vaibhav Mukhraiya, Harsh Gopal Daga and Anmol Mahajan, the plea submits that "it is highly arbitrary, illegal and against the basic principles of equity and justice on part of the University to charge fees for amenities and services such as Moot Court that have been suspended in these times of COVID-19."
The matter had been taken up on Friday by Justice BS Walia of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Advocate Punit Gupta, appearing on behalf of RGNUL, submitted to the Court that no late fees would be imposed upon the students.
The Court has directed the University to file its Reply and has listed the matter for July 22 for final arguments.
The issues raised in the plea are as follows:
1. There have been no regular online classes as per the schedule announced. Moreover, the Respondent continues to charge fees beyond the tuition fee amounting to 50% plus the actual warranted amount. The plea states that the notice dated 12.04.2020 informing the students that online classes will be conducted is a "sham as hardly any online classes took place since 15.04.2020."
2. Bare perusal of the heads under which the fee is being charged reveals that the Respondent is charging Amenities Fee, Campus Development Fund, Moot Court Fees, Examination Fees and Library Fee, despite the campus of the University being completely shut.
3. With the students having gone back to their respective homes due to the pandemic and online classes being conducted, the plea avers that the charging of full fees for unutilized amenities is illegal and the University is profiteering at the cost of the students.
"Furthermore, the Hostel Fee being charged from the Petitioner students is in full and not a mere rental. It is worthwhile to mention here that due to non-occupation of hostel rooms, the Respondent No. 2 is not incurring expenses on electricity, water and general upkeep and maintenance expenses. However, the Hostel Fee has not been adjusted to reflect such decrease in expenditure."
4. While the Petitioners are "conscious of the Respondent's liability to remunerate the teaching/non-teaching staff members of the University and other expenditure which, notwithstanding the closure of campus, is to be duly incurred", it is submitted that their action to charge fee for every service for the entire semester while the routine in-campus activities remain suspended, is without any rationale and is thus arbitrary.
The plea points out the that University is a State-Funded University which receives funds which are not entirely met out of the fee collected from the students.
In light of the above, the petition prays for directions to quash the 20th June order asking for advance payment in full amount and imposing exorbitant fine on delay of payment of such fee. It further prays for directions to the Respondent to charge only that amount of fee from students in lieu of which expenditure is actually being incurred and can be accounted for.
The plea also prays for directions to adjust the unutilized portion of fees charged for the summer semester (February – May 2020) towards the upcoming semester (August – December 2020).