A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court to direct the government to issue orders mandating Colleges and Universities to waive off fees for the coming semester, given the financial difficulties arising on account of the COVID-19 lockdown.
The plea has been filed by the NGO Justice for Rights Foundation which has sought directions for an effective mechanism through which relief in terms of fee waiver for College and University students can be implemented.
The petition prays the Court direct the Centre to issue orders to State governments to provide relief, waive off, or impose a moratorium on academic fees for the next semester.
Adding that the above should be done for all institutions regardless it being public or private, aided or unaided, it is further prayed that the State governments should also restrict the institutes from demanding a lump sum amount from the students.
On account of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, all schools and colleges have remained shut since March and are likely to remain closed for the coming months.
On April 29, the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued a notice stating that the academic sessions would begin from August for existing students and from September for new students, with admission processes commencing in August.
Not only Colleges and Institutes, but a large portion of the service sector, as well as the industries, have remained shut ever since the imposition of the nation-wide lockdown. The lockdown has adversely affecting the income of many households, the petitioner states. In light of these factors, it is urged that the fees due for the semester be waived off. It states,
“…the present demand by the educational institutions force parents and students to choose between basic essential commodities required to survive lockdown and to effectively exercise their right to uninterrupted education.”
Pointing towards the notice stating that the payment of school fees shall be at the discretion of the parents and shall not be forced on them, the petitioner has prayed that the same should also extend to the colleges as, “it is equally important for smooth continuation for college students.”
The petitioner further argues,
“…right to education can only have effective meaning if it is read as a right to continuous and uninterrupted education, the reality also remains that many students and parents are supporting their educational endeavours by educational or friendly loans, which further add to the burden.(sic)”
It is further argued that the Colleges and Universities have not considered the issue at hand with the required degree of seriousness due to which students and their parents are facing financial difficulties in the form of College fees to be paid despite the lockdown and the effective loss in income.
The petition has been filed through the founder of the petitioner organization, Satyam Singh Rajput, with Advocate Amit Kumar Sharma and two law students, Prateek Sharma and Diksha Dadu.