A petition has moved the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Bar Council of India (BCI) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) to issue a circular mandating Universities and Institutions across India to provide a reasonable time period for the payment of fees by students. The plea has also sought adoption of a common redressal mechanism for all grievances made by the Students.
The plea was filed by a fourth-year law student from Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida, Ramey Krishna Rana. It highlights the fact that the guidelines, issued by the UGC & BCI on May 27 & July 27 respectively, are silent about sympathetically dealing with payment by students for annual/semester fees, tuition fees, examination fees, etc. by Universities amid the pandemic. "While, on the basis of above mentioned Circular numerous emails, messages, and even calls were made to the college/university authorities by the students to create a middle path for ending the debacle inter-se, but to the students' dismay, none of the college authorities didn't even burden themselves for once”
, the petitioner submitted. It further compared the UGC with a “toothless tiger” which despite thousands of grievances, doesn’t take any action. In regard to this, many emails were sent to the BCI on numerous occasions, highlighting the aforementioned issues faced by students, yet it has proven all efforts in vain leaving the students alone with their plight.
The petitioner further contends that many institutions didn't pay any heed or a thought to the circular issued by the BCI which is to be "considerate on the point of fees" in order to save the interests of the Law students. Moreover, many Institute/College told the students, “these are apex educational forums (UGC & BCI) but their guidelines are advisory in nature so we are not going to abide by the guidelines as delivered". Further, the plea states that "Where a student should have been focusing on his education which has already been disturbed due to the pandemic, the same students are being forced to knocks the doors of the Courts of Justice to seek help and relief which is itself very disturbing. It is brought before this court that most of the students have already approached their college authorities' numerous times but to our disappointment, students are not even being heard and college has turned deaf ears towards them and hence this PIL."
Ramey Krishna Rana’s petition makes it clear that it has no objections to the requirement of collecting fees considering that it might "adversely affect their right to carry any occupation, trade or business guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India”. The petition seeks a reasonable remedy to allow students concessions on humanitarian which will not be cumbersome for the institutions as well. Expecting parents to make full payments to college authorities under such unprecedented circumstances is unfair. "All over, the citizens confronted those 3 months where many parents were laid off from their offices, those 3 months where the business had to be shut down with 0% net profits, those 3 months where they received deducted payments, those 3 months where our many near and dear ones were not only fighting financially alongside the pandemic but continue to do so still and how all these unprecedented circumstances have affected even the basic income of families",
the petition said. The petition also points out another significant issue that affects the mental health of the student. Since no time extension has been provided for the students, those who are unable to pay the fees due to financial constraints such students might face public shaming by posting all the details of fees defaulters in official/unofficial digital groups without thinking much of its ramifications. "Issue an appropriate order directing the appropriate respondent for looking into the waiver of certain components of the fee, like utilization of infrastructure fee, library, other facilities, etc. on the ground that no such utilization is being done as physical classes are not being held, in Centers of Education and such be excluded and that only a reasonable amount towards the tuition fees be charged and that no list containing the details of fees defaulter should be made public which will cause mental trauma,"
the petition reads. The petitioner ultimately prays for directions from the Apex Court for providing students with a "rational period" towards the payment of the fees by the way of installments or considering any alternative payment options in the interest of the students. The petition is expected to be taken up by the Hon’ble Court on September 17, 2020.