Over 90 students of the School of Excellence in Law (SOEL), which is affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Dr.Ambedkar Law University (TNDALU) have moved the Madras High Court challenging the levy of fees for facilities not used after the closure of the college amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Students of SOEL move Madras HC challenging levy of fees for facilities not utilised amid COVID-19 pandemic
By
Meera Emmanuel
22nd Sep, 2020 at 8:32 AM
Over 90 students of the School of Excellence in Law (SOEL), which is affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Dr.Ambedkar Law University (TNDALU) have moved the Madras High Court challenging the levy of fees for facilities not used after the closure of the college amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two circulars issued by the TNDALU have been challenged in this regard.

An August 29 circular had made the demand for fees payable for the 2020-21 academic session including the fees payable for internet, library, AIR café, infrastructure, class amenities, sports, moot court, admission application, NSS and Youth Red Cross.

On September 14, another circular was issued extending the deadline for paying the fees to September 30, but effectively rejecting a representation made for the reduction of fee in view of the closure of the campus and the halt of physical classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another representation made to the University Chancellor also bore no positive response, prompting the students to approach the Madras High Court over the matter.

The writ petition informs that the fees levied, apart from tuition fee, for students amounts to:

Rs 33,545 for 2nd-year students and 3rd-year students

Rs 31,545 for 4th-year students and,

Rs 24,545 for 5th-year students.

The broad contentions and submissions made in the petition include:

The levy of fees for internet, library, AIR café, infrastructure, class amenities, sports, moot court, admission application, NSS and Youth Red Cross is arbitrary, unreasonable and illegal, given that the SOEL campus has remained closed from March 25 onwards, in compliance with orders passed by the State Government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The facilities of internet, library, AIR café, infrastructure, class amenities, sports, moot court, admission application, NSS and Youth Red Cross are in no way accessible with the lockdown in force. These facilities stand suspended from usage till date with the outbreak of the pandemic.

The College has only been conducting online classes for the students.

The valuation for fee payment was arrived without taking into account the reopening/resumption of physical classes is uncertain and subject to further orders of the Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The valuation should have holistically taken into consideration the number of working days lost during the previous semester owing to the lockdown and the number of days lost during this academic year, exclusive of the days spent on online classes.

The SOEL campus at Perungudi has also been converted into a COVID -19 isolation facility. Therefore, the commencement of physical classes at the campus remains ambiguous.

SOEL has reproduced the same quantum of fee paid during the last academic year (2019-2020) without considering that the utilities are no longer accessible and that the usage of the same remain ambiguous given the pandemic situation.

That the utility fee chargeable per year must be in line with the actual number of working days excluding the days spent on online classes.

In view of these contentions, the petitioners have made the following prayers before the Madras High Court:

To quash the two circulars as illegal, arbitrary and devoid of merit

To revise the fee structure by waiving or reducing the fee associated with facilities not in use.

The writ petition has been filed Advocates KM Mrithunjayan, AM Manav, A Venkatesh, Anbarasi R, PE Senthil Kumar and Zahid Ahmed.

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