Students of Himachal Pradesh National Law University (HPNLU) have filed a writ petition (C.W.P 549/2021) before the Himachal Pradesh High Court, seeking fees waiver amid Covid-19 pandemic and setting aside of various notifications issued by the University including a notification to withhold the previous semester results, and eviction from the hostel premises.
The petition has been filed by advocates Pranay Pratap Singh and Mallika Parmar .
On January 27 this year, the first date of hearing, the vacation bench of Anoop Chitkara J. directed the University to not insist upon for 'No dues Certificate' for the financial year i.e. COVID-19 pandemic time.
Petitioner students have stated before the Court that they are being forced to pay the fees even for the period during the lockdown in the name of availing the benefits of services that have not even been availed by the students such as Library fees, Hostel Fees, Electricity charges, and Internet fees once the lockdown was announced.
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 that have been suspended in these times of COVID-19."
Petitioner students also cited examples of other National Law Universities across India including those which has been established after the establishment of Himachal Pradesh National Law University which have provided relief to it’s students in terms of fee.
The issues raised in the plea are as follows:
1. The Respondent University is charging Amenities Fee, Campus Development Fund, Moot Court Fees, Examination Fees and Library Fee, despite the campus of the University being completely shut.
2. 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 unlawful and the University is profiteering at the cost of the students.
It is worthwhile to mention here that due to non-occupation of hostel rooms, the University is not incurring expenses on electricity, water and general upkeep and maintenance expenses.
In light of this the students urged a waiver in their academic fees.
The students have also claimed that the university has resorted to arbitrary decision such as:
1. Withholding the results of Previous Semester (i.e. even semesters) for the fee of current Semester (odd semesters).
2. Insisting for the No Dues Certificate for Examinations, participating in Moot Courts and applying for Scholarship etc.
3. Disallowing the students to take Reappear Examinations of the previous Semester in absence of payment of Academic Fees for the current Semester.
4. University further on 05.03.2021 via an Examination order is compelling the students to deposit the fee for the ongoing Semester as well as upcoming semester in order to make them eligible to sit for the ongoing Semester exams and Reappear exams.
The University, on its part, says that their liabilities already total up to 12 crores, and the fact the the university is using a rented premise is only adding to the financial burden. Furthermore, as the order above reveals, there has been no financial assistance received from the State government after 2017.
When the matter was last heard on March 4, the Bench of Narayana Swamy CJ and Anoop Chitkara J directed that the matter be placed before Division Bench - III on March 19, 2021.
(The author is a Bar & Bench Campus Ambassador; the piece has been edited by our editorial team)