The Delhi High Court Wednesday declined to entertain a PIL seeking guidelines to universities and such institutions to charge only the tuition fee, that too in installments, in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic, and said ”concessions are not a matter of right”.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan instead asked the concerned authorities to treat the plea as a representation and take a decision in accordance with law, rules, regulations and government policy applicable to the facts of the case.
With the direction, the petition, by a fourth-year law student, was disposed of. During the brief hearing, the bench said that universities have to pay their professors and also set up the infrastructure for online classes and therefore, they cannot be directed to grant fee concessions.
It disapproved of the several reliefs, like providing gadgets and 4G internet packs to students by the varsities, sought in the PIL and said ”what is the harm in asking for it”. ”Maangne mein kya jaata hai (what is the harm in asking for it). You can ask for the heaven and the sky. Why not ask for cycles and cars also as they (students) have to go to the college/university. What is the harm in asking.
”Such petition deserve to be dismissed with costs, but we are not doing it now,” the bench said while disposing of the plea filed through advocate Kush Sharma. The law student, in his plea, had sought directions from the Ministry of Education to the various universities and such institutions to give a break up of the fees being charged by them and to also grant concessions to parents on a case-to-case basis in the form of extension of time period to deposit the fees.
The petition had also sought framing of guidelines to ensure the varsities provide gadgets and fast internet connections, to those who cannot afford the same, so that all students have access to the online education or classes being held during the pandemic. It had claimed that while the University Grants Commission and Bar Council of India has issued advisories to the varsities to grant concessions with regard to fees, these were only requests and the universities were not adhering to the same.
The petition had contended that due to the pandemic not only the country’s GDP has shrunk but people employed in various sectors have lost their jobs or have faced reduction in salaries. ”Consequently, household income across all income groups has reduced considerably and people are facing severe cash crunch and financial burden. Owing to these circumstances, the parents of students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate courses are finding it exceedingly difficult to pay the fees of their wards. ”This situation is more alarming in the case of parents of those students who are pursuing their education in educational institutions which are set up under private universities and deemed universities which charge fees at a huge premium,” the petition had said.
It had further alleged that some educational institutions are taking coercive steps, like repeatedly calling, messaging or emailing parents threatening to strike-off names of their wards or deny them access to online classes over non-payment of fees.