Deemed Universities cannot charge fees, which is not mentioned in the prospectus: Kerela HC
In a recent Judgement, Hon’ble Kerala High Court has ruled that Deemed Universities cannot charge fees in excess from the students, which is not mentioned in the prospectus. The High Court also directed the Deemed University to refund the excess fee collected from the students.
The Judgement was passed in a writ petition is filed by 51 Ph.D scholars of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology. They were aggrieved by a University circular, by which all Ph.D students were required to pay semester fees of Rs.12500/- w.e.f. July 2017.
It was submitted by the students that they were admitted as Ph.D scholars, and at the time of admission, the notification proposed to be collected later and hence the later circular for the payment of any fees can have no effect on the petitioners who had secured admissions prior to the implementation of the same and on the basis of a notification which did not provide for such fees. The students approached the University raising their concern, which was rejected.
It was contended by the University that there is a general clause in the Rules enabling the university to fix fee and that the institute has been sending offer letters to all selected PhD candidates all these years indicating that they will have to remit tuition/registration fee along with fee for boarding/lodging and medical facilities etc, of the institute as may be prescribed from time to time. It was also argued that fees has been imposed after following detailed procedure, under various heads and the same is within their reasonable margins especially when the students are imparting education in Ph.D level.
The Court speaking through Hon’ble Justice Anu Sivaraman referred to the University Grants Commission (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016, and various provisions in the Regulations relating to fees and publication of prospectus. Clause 6.1 of the Regulations provides that no institution deemed to be university shall, for admission in respect of any course or programme of study conducted in such institution, accept payment towards admission fee and other fees and charges other than such fee or charges for such admission, which has been declared by it in the prospectus for admission against any such seat, and on the website Of the institution.
With regard to the prospectus, Clause 6.5 of to the University Grants Commission (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016, it is provided that every institution deemed to be university shall publish. before expiry of sixty days prior to the date. of the commencement of admission to any of its courses or programmes of study, a prospectus containing the following for the purposes of informing those persons intending to seek admission to such institution which shall also include each component of the fee, deposits and other charges payable by the students admitted to such institution for pursuing a course or a programme of study, and the other terms and conditions of such payment
The Petitioners are also relied on these Regulations to say that they had been admitted on the specific assurance that they would not have to pay any tuition fee and that they are not liable to pay any amounts, except the boarding, lodging and medical facilities as per the IIST Rules as provided in admission notification.
The Hon’ble Court noted that the petitioners were admitted in terms of admission notification of 2013, which does not provide for the payment of any fees and fees was sought to be imposed later in the year 2017.
The Court finally ruled that:
In view of the specific provisions contained in UGC Regulations that fees can be collected only after informing the applicants by way of a prospectus and in view of the specific contentions that there was no such intimation in the admission notifications pursuant to which the petitioners were admitted, I am of the opinion that Exhibit P1 circular can have no application to the petitioners, who were admitted prior to the issuance of the same.
The Court therefore allowed the writ petition directing the University to collect only such fees as are provided in the admission notifications/prospectus on the basis of which the petitioners were admitted. The Court also directed the University to refund any amounts collected in excess shall from the students.
Consensus ad idem’ is a basic concept of contractual law. Student-Institution relationship indisputably is contractual in nature. When consent of a student to confirm admission has been taken on basis of some representation, it will be hard to defend any change in such representation, which is to the disadvantage of the student. Hence this judgement is also based on the principle of “informed consent”. This applies universally to all the educational institutions.