People Were Trying To Make Two Ends Meet During Covid-19: P&H HC Directs RGNUL To Charge Only 50% Hostel Rent From Students
The Punjab & Haryana High Court has directed the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala to charge only 50% of the Hostel rent from the students and observed that the University was not justified in charging the entire hostel rent from the students during COVID as the people were trying hard to make their two ends meet and the burden of the fee was putting them under additional pressure.
The Writ Petition was filed by under-graduate students of RGNUL, Aditya Kashyap and others, some of whom graduated during the pendency of the litigation.
The Bench of Justice Augustine George Masih and Justice Vikram Aggarwal observed that COVID time was a really tough time for everyone and the students were compelled to leave all their belongings in the hostel rooms. But that does not justify the University's decision to charge the entire hostel fees from the students when only 25% of the rent was being charged from the contractors of mess, shops, canteens, etc.
"While people were trying to make their two ends meet, the burden of fees etc. was putting them under additional pressure. The institutions also suffered because they had to maintain huge buildings, staff etc. 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.," said the Court.
In this case, the students submitted a representation on May 18th, 2020 to reduce/waive fees under various heads. A subsequent representation was also filed to the Dean of Students Welfare of the University and in the meeting held on June 20th, 2020, the Finance Committee decided to waive off the annual increase of Rs. 5000/- in the tuition fee and the mess charges until the mess operations resumed. Students were called to deposit the fees following the decision taken by the Finance committee, which was further challenged by filing the Writ Petition.
Assailing the Judgment of Single Judge dated April 20th 2022, whereby the Writ petition filed by the parents was dismissed holding that the decision of the Finance Committee was not perverse, arbitrary or unreasonable, the Letters Patent Appeal was preferred before the High Court.
Senior Advocate Chetan Mittal appeared on behalf of the appellants and submitted that it is highly unfair that only 25% charges have been charged from the Contractors of mess, shops and canteens whereas full rent has been charged from the students on the flimsy ground that the possession of the rooms was with the students. It was also submitted that if 50% of the hostel charges are waived off, it would be a big relief for the students.
Advocate Puneet Gupta appeared on behalf of RGNUL and submitted that the total amount of Rs. 23,382/- per student has been refunded on account of refundable security and other things. It was also submitted that the appellants cannot equate the issue of hostel rent with that of canteens, shops etc. because the possession of the canteens, shops etc., was with RGNUL because all of them were closed when the pandemic was going on but the possession of the hostel rooms was with the students. It was further submitted that the University incurred huge expenditures when the pandemic was going on but the possession of the hostel rooms was with the students. It was further submitted that RGNUL incurred huge expenditures in maintaining the hostel and the campus and was not able to set up a COVID-19 isolation centre in the hostel
The Court noted that the appellants had restricted their claim to hostel rent only and directed RGNUL to charge only 50% of the hostel rent from the students for the academic period 2020-2021 and to refund the remaining amount to the students (if so deposited) within four weeks from the day of the Judgment and 50% of the hostel rent, left with the RGNUL, would be sufficient for the expenses which RGNUL has incurred on the repair and maintenance of the hostel rooms, post the pandemic.
The Court, with regard to the contention of setting up a COVID-19 isolation center, observed that the argument was devoid of any merit as it was conceded by RGNUL that there would have been no financial benefit as the Government would not have paid anything for the same.
Accordingly, the appeal was disposed of.
Cause Title- Aditya Kashyap & Ors. V. State of Punjab & Anr.
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