Pandemic Repercussions to be Considered in Levying Fees: Patna HC

Pandemic Repercussions to be Considered in Levying Fees: Patna HC 
09.12.2021 | Education News | EduLegaL  | |
The Patna High Court in Kartikay Trivedi & Ors vs Chanakya National Law University Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.7792 of 2020 – held the demand of facility and library fees from students as arbitrary and illegal as the students, owing to the pandemic lockdown, had not utilized these resources. The court additionally asked educational institutes to adopt a sensitive approach when charging fees, especially during the pandemic. 
A single bench of Justice P. B. Bajanthri held: 

the demand for facility and library fees of a Sum of Rs. 15,000/- and Rs. 5,000/- are arbitrary and illegal and such demand from student are set aside. The petitioners are hereby directed to pay the then fees as demanded pursuant to official Memorandum dated 07.08.2020. The Respondent-University if they have collected fee under the Head of Facilities & Library fee from any student the same shall be refunded at the earliest. 

The petitioners, students in the respondent university, had approached the High Court of Patna through a writ for quashing the demand from the university for deposits of entire fees for the academic session 2020-21 and direct the university to charge the tuition fees and accept the fees in 3 equal instalments. 
The petitioners, through an official notice dated 7.08.2020 issued by the respondent university, were mandated to deposit the entire fees for the academic session 2020-21 as one-time payment before 31st August, 2020. Furthermore, the respondent had mentioned that failure to pay the same would attract a penalty. The fees demanded included Rs. 94,500/- for Indian students and Rs. 2,62,500/- from NRI sponsored category. Further, the students were also instructed to pay an examination and facilities fees of Rs. 15,000/- and library fees of Rs. 5,000/-. 
The counsel for the respondent university argued that the university was going through financial crisis and the academic council had also approved the charging of the aforementioned fees. Further, the counsel also pointed that the university did not charge any hostel fees, mess fees, or electricity charges for the hostel. He further added that the students had been provided with total concession up to Rs. 1,02,00,000/-. 
The court after hearing the arguments of the counsel observed that: 

Mere purchase of books and other infrastructure to the institution/University it is not proper for University to demand fees towards facilities fees and library fees when the students are not benefited by the aforesaid facilities. 

Further, the court pointed on manner in which the recovery of fees should be done by citing the Supreme Court judgement in the case of Indian School, Jodhpur vs. State of Rajasthan where the court observed that the management of educational institutions should be considerate and thoughtful of students and parents while taking steps, especially in the context to fees, during the pandemic times.The court said insisting on payment for facilities not provided to students would amount profiteering which must be avoided by the educational institutions. 
The court added: 

In law, the school management can not be heard to collect fees in respect of activities and facilities which are, in fact, not provided to or availed of by its students due to circumstances beyond their control. Demanding fees even in respect of overheads on such activities would be nothing short of indulging in profiteering and commercialization. It is a well-known fact and judicial notice can also be taken that due to complete lockdown, schools were not allowed to open for substantially long period during the academic year 2020-2021. Resultantly, the School management must have saved overheads and recurring cost on various items such as petrol/diesel, electricity, maintenance cost, water charges, stationery charges etc.” 

The court additionally drew attention to Article 41 of the Constitution which enshrines to secure the right of work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases of unemployment, old age sickness and disability and Article 46 of the Constitution that enumerates education of weaker sections of the people.  
In conclusion, the court directed the university to not charge any facilities or library fees, if charged to refund it at the earliest and disposed of the petition. 
Rasmita Behera | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL

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