"It is the duty and the obligation of the University Administration to be empathetic towards the situations of every single student studying with them and see if the decisions taken by the University can meet up to the ground realities of our country today"
A PIL has been filed in the Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking waiver of fees and cancellation of semester examinations for the students of the Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University (DSNLU), Vizag.
The matter will be heard today before Court No. 2, via video-conferencing.
The petition has been moved by Anurag Tiwary and Keshav Baheti, students of DSNLU, highlighting that a huge number of students at the University come from underprivileged backgrounds, minority communities, troubled households, economically weaker sections and remote village areas, and such they do not have sufficient means/ basic infrastructure to attend online classes or appear for online examinations.
"Conducting internal evaluation or online classes or any kind of assessment in the coming days, suffers from the presumption that every student has the required basic infrastructure necessary to appear for such evaluation, classes or assessments. Those students who do not have the basic infrastructure such as High-speed internet connectivity, laptops, computers, mentally stable emotional spaces and physical spaces in their homes or who come from far flung areas will be unreasonably classified against those students who have the aforesaid privileges. This will violate their right to equality," their plea states.
In this backdrop it has been prayed that the University be directed to make it "non-mandatory" for students to attend the online classes rather than making it compulsory.
Further they have sought appropriate orders for cancelation of the Examinations and any kind of Internal Evaluation of students for the ongoing semester. They have suggested that an Alternative mechanism be devised by the Administration (in coherence with sister universities) for assessing students in a manner that does not prejudice their economic/social/mental well-being and interest.
The Petitioner have also pointed out that the students are being forced to pay Library fees, Hostel Fees, Mess Charges, Electricity charges and Internet fees, even during the lockdown period, when such facilities are not being availed by them.
"Universities have turned into profit-making corporations wherein they charge a mandatory increment in the Tuition fee of their students every year. Such increment in the Academic year 2020-2021 during such times when COVID-19 has crippled the economy and increased job losses and unemployment, will severely prejudice the interest of the aforementioned students and will make them worse off than their privileged counterparts," the plea states.
In view thereof a direction has been sought to the University to not charge any fees in the current academic year for the number of months/days students in such universities haven't availed the amenities from the University during the enforced lockdown.
The plea states that if the above reliefs are not granted, the students will be put in a state where they will be forced to reveal about their private life (either economically, geographically and socially in terms of lack of infrastructure to meet the deadlines of the university, or emotionally and mentally in terms of lack of capability to meet the expectations from them academically) which they otherwise wouldn't have wanted to reveal. Thus, the same is a violation of their Right to Privacy, enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Further, they have prayed that the University be directed to not charge increment in the Academic fees for the Academic year 2020-2021, given the crippled state of economy and increased job losses and unemployment.
Lastly, the Petitioners have submitted that the lockdown has severely affected the mental health of many students and the University has a "complimentary role" to remedy the same. Accordingly, they have prayed for a direction to the University to immediately take up cases of students facing mental health challenges during the current Lockdown and compulsorily recruit Mental Health Counsellors to students at the University level itself.
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