Left in the lurch: This NLU may just be dragged to arbitration for recovery of dues

A visit to the National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi in late 2014 revealed the tell-tale signs of a fledgling university having trouble getting off the ground.

And more than two years later, it seems little has changed.

NUSRL is now facing the prospect of being taken to arbitration by the Central Public Works Department in Ranchi. The reason? The University owes them Rs. 42 crore in dues for construction on the campus.

The University, as Vice-Chancellor Dr. BC Nirmal reveals, is in no position to pay that amount. He adds that the Jharkhand government has not fulfilled its promise of funding the University. He says,

“When NUSRL was first launched, the Chief Minister promised to give huge funds to make it a global standard University. We were provided about 63 acres of land by the government. We received 50 crore rupees in three instalments – 1 crore in 2010, 2 crore in 2011, and 47 crore in 2012.

The construction costs alone amounted to 85 crore rupees. We have already paid 50 crore, but 35 crore and additional 7 crore in interest is due to the CPWD. They are now insisting that if we don’t pay, they will go for arbitration.”

In fact, Dr. Nirmal has been harping on the state government’s reluctance to financially aid NUSRL ever since he joined as Vice-Chancellor. In this earlier interview with Bar & Bench, he revealed that this was the primary reason why the annual fees at NUSRL is the highest among the country’s twenty-odd national law universities.

Dr. Nirmal says that he is still trying his best to convince the government.

“We have approached the government for release of funds. I had a meeting with the Education Minister and tried to convince her about the dire need for funds.

I have been told that a committee headed by Chief Secretary Rajbala Verma has been constituted to look into the matter.”

However, he reveals that the aforementioned sum of Rs. 42 crore would not be enough. The University, he says, still lacks some basic facilities, and needs more funds for the same.

“We need 42 crore just to clear our dues. We still do not have residential houses for faculty, an auditorium or a moot court hall. We don’t even have pakka roads on campus.”

While the state government mulls over its decision, the University is considering alternative options. Dr. Nirmal says that though the University Act provides that NUSRL is a self-financed institution, funds may be provided by the state government, Bar Council of India, State Bar Council and industrial corporate houses.

“In 2014, we approached all of them, but no response was received. We will again try. The Bar Council of India is the recognising body; they charge money, but don’t give any, the same is the case with the State Bar Council.

The only thing we can do is approach industrial houses as part of their corporate social responsibility, but I am not sure if they will provide help.”

NUSRL’s is a classic example of a state government starting an ambitious project with little or no thought behind it, ostensibly to score political points. The constant change in the dispensation over the past few years has not helped things either.

This is not the first time NUSRL has brought the government’s callousness to the fore. In 2015, the students wrote a scathing letter to the then Chief Minister, bringing his attention to the state of affairs at the University.

One can only imagine the state of affairs if the government continues to turn a blind eye to the situation. Dr. Nirmal ends by saying,

“I hope the government will do something. If they (CPWD agencies) go for arbitration, we will have to face the music.”

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news