Dealing with a case, wherein a student's mark sheet and other documents were withheld by the Medical Institute due to non-payment of the penalty and late payment charges, the Gujarat High Court last week observed that,
"No vaccination, unless self-administered, can work to contain the evil of virus of commercial mindedness on part of any educational institution in charging exorbitant amounts from the students under one or other head or under one or another pretext, thereby demeaning the sanctity of the very concept of the education."
The Bench of Justice N. V. Anjaria was hearing the plea of a student who sought direction to his Institute not to withhold the mark sheet, degree certificate, attempt certificate and consequential entitlement for internship on account of non-payment of the penalty and late payment charges.
The facts of the case
The applicant-petitioner is a student who has completed his M.B.B.S. course from Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education and Research, Surat, which is a self-financed college run by Surat Municipal Corporation.
In a communication dated 06th February, 2021, the Institute debarred the student from attending classes and taking the examination on the ground he had not paid the tuition fees, late fees and other charges in the nature of penalty and cheque bounce charges.
The total amount of Rs.11,87,875/- was sought to be recovered and as alleged by the Institute, the cheques submitted by the petitioner-student towards fees were bounced.
Further, an amount of Rs.02,43,095/- and Rs.02,31,326/- came to be demanded towards cheque return charges in respect of two cheques respectively in addition to late fee amount and it was on such ground that the petitioner-student was debarred.
So, filing a petition, the student prayed to permit him to appear and to take the examination of 9th Semester which was to commence from 11th February, 2021.
Court's 10th February order
In view of the fact that the petitioner's family may have undergone financial crisis as a result of the pandemic, the Court had allowed him to submit the fees in instalments (vide its order date 10th February 2021).
The Court had also directed that,
"Failure to file such undertaking and/or abiding with the terms of such undertaking (statig that the dues have been cleared) shall automatically disqualify the petitioner of the benefit of the undergoing of the examinations."
The Court had also observed that if the said payment and undertaking to be filed in that regard was not honoured, then the Institution shall have right to withhold the mark sheet and other testimonials of the petitioner-student.
Consequently, the amounts indicated in Court's order were paid by the petitioner-student and the undertaking filed too, was filed in that regard.
Dean's 25th March Order
However, by way of an Order dated 25th March, 2021, the Dean of the Institute provided that duties assigned to the petitioner-student in South-West Zone (Athwa Zone)for Rapid Antigen Test and COVID-19 vaccination shall be withdrawn as the petitioner had not paid the fees.
It was further mentioned in the Dean's order that the petitioner shall not be entitled to be considered eligible for internship and that the duty given to the petitioner-student for COVID-19 and his internship were ordered to be suspended.
Justifying the 25th March Order, the institute highlighted that petitioner had not paid the amounts which included the penalty and cheque bounce charges.
In support of such claim, Resolution No.167/2019 of the Surat Municipal Corporation was relied upon, which stated that as per the Standing Committee resolution, 18% interest would be recovered for the cheques which may bounce in respect of payments made by the taxpayers, ijaradars and other general payments.
Another Resolution dated 24th June, 2009 of the Corporation was also relied on which contemplate levy of late fee from the student.
Court's sets aside 25th March Order of the Dean of the Institute
At the outset, the Court noted that it had, in its 10th February Order, refused to go into the questions of levy of cheque bounce charges and late fee in the instant writ proceedings, and thus, the Court said,
"The Court has in that way rejected the sand of respondent No.1 Institute and the action of debarment against the student taken on the said ground is disapproved."
In view of that, it was held that the action on part of the Institute to withhold the issuance of mark sheet and other testimonials and to further, withdraw the eligibility of the petitioner-student for internship and preventing the petitioner from undertaking the COVID-19 duty and vaccination duty assigned to him could hardly sustain.
Astonishingly, the Court noted, order dated 25th March, 2021 further provided that the dues assigned to the petitioner for Rapid Antigen Test and COVID-19 vaccination shall also stand cancelled.
"While the arbitrariness is evident, it also smacks commercial approach on part of respondent No.1," noted the Court.
As a result, the Civil Application was allowed by setting aside the order dated 25th March 2021 passed by Dean of the Medical College, declaring that it was not only arbitrary but stands against the express directions issued by this Court in an order dated 10th February, 2021.
Lastly, the Court ordered,
"The respondents in particular respondent No.1 are directed to release the marksheet, degree certificate, attempt certificate and all other testimonials of the petitioner. It is further directed that the petitioner shall be treated as entitled to undergo internship and the said right shall not be denied to him on the ground of non-payment of penalty and cheque bounce charges."
With this, the application stood allowed in terms of above direction.
Case title - Jawal Suraj Chhasiya v. Dean, Surat Municipal Institute Of Medical Education And Research [SPECIAL CIVIL APPLICATION NO. 2861 of 2021]