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PIL in Supreme Court seeks waiver of fees for College, University students amid COVID-19 Lockdown

The present demand by the educational institutions force parents and students to choose between basic essential commodities and their right to uninterrupted education, states the plea.

Shruti Mahajan

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court urging that it direct the government to issue orders mandating Colleges and Universities to waive off fees for the coming semester, given the financial difficulties arising on account of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The NGO Justice for Rights Foundation has moved the Supreme Court in this regard, seeking directions for an effective mechanism through which relief in terms of fee waiver for College and University students can be carried out.

The petition prays that the Apex Court direct the Centre to issue orders or notifications to State governments to provide relief, waive off, or impose a moratorium on academic fees for the next semester.

The same should be regardless of the institute being public or private, aided or unaided, the plea adds. Further, it is prayed that the State governments should also restrict the institutes from demanding a lump sum amount from the students.

On account of the global pandemic of COVID-19, all schools and colleges have remained shut since March and is likely to remain closed for the coming months. On April 29, the University Grants Commission (UGC) said that the academic sessions would begin from August for existing students and from September for new students, with admission processes commencing in August.

Not only Colleges and Institutes, but a large portion of the service sector, as well as the industries, have remained shut ever since the imposition of the nation-wide lockdown. The lockdown has been severely and adversely affecting the income of many households, the petitioner states. In light of these factors, it is urged that the fees due for the semester be waived off, given that many persons would not be in the financial position to pay the fees.

"...the present demand by the educational institutions force parents and students to choose between basic essential commodities required to survive lockdown and to effectively exercise their right to uninterrupted education."
the petition adds.

It is pointed out tha,t keeping in view the financial hardships faced by citizens in the present times, the authorities had issued notifications stating that the payment of school fees would be at the discretion of parents of the pupils and that they shall not be forced to pay the same. However, a notification of similar nature was not issued in relation to Colleges and Universities "which is equally important for smooth continuation for college students."

The petition adds,

"...right to education can only have effective meaning if it is read as a right to continuous and uninterrupted education, the reality also remains that many students and parents are supporting their educational endevaours by educational or friendly loans, which further add to the burden.(sic)"

It is further argued that the Colleges and Universities have not considered the prevalent issue with the required degree of seriousness. This is leading to the students and their parents facing a financial difficulties in the form of College fees to be paid despite the lockdown and the effective loss in income.

Therefore, the petitioner organization has now sought directions for the government to mandate that the Colleges and Universities waive off the fees for this semester.

The petition is filed through the founder of the petitioner organization, Satyam Singh Rajput, with Advocate Amit Kumar Sharma and two law students, Prateek Sharma and Diksha Dadu.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news