Published: 23rd November 2022
RGNUL: Punjab & Haryana HC directs institutes to charge only 50% of hostel fees for COVID span
The students of RGNUL finally get the judgement in their favour after a two-year-long battle to have their hostel fees during the pandemic waived
On Monday, November 21, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala, to charge only 50% of the hostel fees for the pandemic period. The HC further directed the institute to reimburse the deposited fees within four weeks. The decision came after the court took notice of the university, charging only 25% of the rent to the contractors of the mess, canteens and others, while demanding the entire amount from the students.
“Initially, we were getting charged for everything although we weren’t even on campus. The institute was demanding that we pay the amenity fees, gym fees, water, electricity, mess charge and more. They also imposed a Rs 5,000 annual increase in fees. This was completely unjustified,” says Aditya Kashyap, an RGNUL student who filed the writ petition.
The HC echoed Aditya when they took cognisance of the extraordinary situations everyone was in and stated, “While people were trying to make their two ends meet, the burden of fee etc. was putting them under additional pressure...If one weighs all these facts, there does not appear to be any justification for charging the entire hostel rent from the students, especially when only 25% of the rent had been charged from the contractors of mess, shops, canteens etc.” Further, the court also said that the student's possession of the apartments was through force and not by choice.
The university administration, however, said that the inclusion of the hostel fee in the composite price makes it difficult to separate the fee into separate categories. In addition to that, the institute also claimed that the students have already been given Rs 23,382 as a relief, which includes a reimbursement of Rs 14,782 from the effective cost of Rs 1,86,000 and the additional waiving of the Rs 5,000 increase and Rs 3,600. Nonetheless, the court ordered that in addition to the benefit that has been provided, the administration can only charge 50% and must refund the rest within the next four weeks.
The students welcomed the judgement, which came as a relief to most of them. “For a few, the fees didn’t matter, but we know many who were in a financial crisis. Few students lost the only earning member of the family, or someone lost a job, so it didn’t make any sense they should be burdened with this unnecessary expense,” says Aditya.
The students of RGNUL had submitted a signed representation via Google forms to a couple of administrative heads but were mostly rejected. “More than 900 students had signed that representation, but the university rejected it and stopped communicating with us in all forms. We even tried reaching out to the Chancellor,” informs Aditya. After the signed representation, the university waived off the mess fees and the increase in fees; however, unlike the other institutes during that period, RGNUL refused to offer a rebate or waive off more. Following the rejection from the university, the students also tried to seek help from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Last year, the petition filed by the students was dismissed by a Single-judge Bench.
During the legal proceedings, the administration was replaced by what the students call a more “student-friendly administration”, wherein the VC waived off Rs 14,728 considering the tumultuous time. Finally, a Division Bench, on Sunday, ordered a 50% hostel fee waiver since the university only charged 25% from its contractors of mess, canteens and others.