Students of the Nirma University, Ahmedabad have sent a letter petition to the Gujarat High Court urging it to stay the University's notification dated July 1, 2020, demanding full fees from all students.
"To demand full fees as previously demanded, which obviously includes numerous charges NOT being utilized in the online teaching is sheer arbitrary. Therefore, the move is manifestly arbitrary, illegal and thus unconstitutional being hit by Article 14 of the Constitution," the students wrote.
Through the impugned notification, the University administration had intimated that it will start online sessions for the current academic year from 6th July 2020. To facilitate the same, the students have been asked to submit their full fees by August 5, 2020.
The students have argued that the impugned notification was issued without keeping into due consideration the "disproportionate impact" the lockdown has had on the livelihood of their families. It is stated that the University's claim that online teaching will incur MORE cost is "illogical, irrational and manifestly arbitrary."
It is submitted,
"the prevalent situation indubitably warrants from the university to arrange and provide for special considerations in these unprecedented times. Appropriate relaxations are a bare minimum threshold that the University should have ideally met without any external calling."
The students have pointed out that as per Rule 34A of Academic Regulations of the University, the academic fees has to be decided by the Director General in consultation with the Board of Governors. However, per the official website of the University, "the last meeting of the board was conducted on 28-09-2019. This proves that the university is unwilling to change its fee structure even in these uncertain times."
It is submitted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted underlying "gaps" in the education regulatory system, including the higher bargaining power that educational institutions exercise over its students.
"A fair balance would provide that if there is any reduction of cost, there should also be a proportionate reduction in the fees. If the benefit of reduction is not shifted to the students, it would lead to colleges earning beyond the standard set by the law and thus, would be considered illegal," the students stressed. Reliance is placed on Modern Dental College v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 7 SCC 353, where the Supreme Court had held that a University cannot charge a fee that is beyond the purpose of fulfilling the object of education.
The students have therefore urged the Court to ask the University to waive off a part of the fees being charged and accordingly refund the proportionate fee of those students who have already paid.