"Govt has to fund public education", Delhi HC allows JNU students to register at old rates; no late fee to be imposed
Litigation News

"Govt has to fund public education", Delhi HC allows JNU students to register at old rates; no late fee to be imposed

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court today allowed Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students who are yet to register for the ongoing Winter Semester, to do so as per the old hostel manual within one week.

The Court has directed that no late fee shall be imposed on such students for late registration.

The Court has also clarified that for the purpose of room allocation, the reserved category students shall be dealt with as per the old Hostel Manual i.e. the one which existed prior to October 28, 2019 in case of any dispute.

The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher in a petition by the members of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) challenging the introduction of University’s new Hostel Manual.

The Court today issued notice to the JNU Administration and directed it to file its response to the petition within two weeks.

It is the petitioner's stance that the new Hostel Manual has resulted in increased hostel fee, affected rights of those in reserved categories vis a vis allocation of hostel rooms, and reduced the representation of the JNUSU in the Inter Hostel Administration (IHA).

In its petition filed through Advocates Abhik Chimni, Aman Shukla, Aarti and Mayank Goyal, JNUSU members assailed the Hostel Manual on the ground that that the entire decision-making process was malafide, arbitrary and illegal, and adversely affected the student community.

Appearing for the petitioners, Senior Advocate Akhil Sibal contended that the decision-making process was undertaken without any student representation. This defeated the mandate of the Hostel Manual of including the views of the stakeholders when changing its provisions, he argued.

The petitioners also took objection to the introduction of Below Poverty Line (BPL)/Economic Weaker Section (EWS) category in the Hostel Manual, calling it irrational and arbitrary. It is stated that there was no explanation as to how such category was to be made applicable or identified when “Merit-cum-Means Scholarships” category was already existing in the University.

It was thus pleaded that the acts ran contrary to the Delhi High Court’s order passed in March 2019, which acknowledged the importance of student representation in welfare committees.

Opposing the plea, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand submitted that 90% students had already registered as per the new Hostel Manual.To this Justice Shakdher replied,

"When you don't have a choice, what do you do?"

Justice Rajiv Shakdher (Delhi High Court)

Urging the University administration to establish dialogue with the representatives, Justice Shakdher said,

"You cannot say that you will not engage... that's my concern."

Justice Rajiv Shakdher (Delhi High Court)

Anand also opposed Justice Shakdher's suggestion to keep the increased hostel fee in abeyance for the time being in view of concerns regarding payment of salaries to the employees of the University. Justice Shakdher, however, remarked,

"Government cannot get out of education...Government has to fund public education...responsibility to pay salaries cannot be on the students... someone has to find the funds."
Justice Rajiv Shakdher (Delhi High Court)

Anand further added that the new manual was introduced as per communications from the UGC and the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Further, the UGC was already in dialogue with the students, she claimed.

She also raised objections with regard to the election of the JNUSU and stated the matter was already pending before a grievance redressal cell as per the Lyndoh Committee guidelines.

The Court, however, clarified that this aspect will be examined at a later stage, if the need arises. The Court was also informed that utility and service charges had already been waived off.

In view of the above, the Court proceeded to direct that the remaining 10% students shall be allowed to register for the ongoing Winter Semester as per the old Hostel Manual and no late fee shall be imposed on them.

The Court also directed for the impleadment of the MHRD and the UGC as parties to the petition.

The matter will be heard next on February 28.

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