Utt HC | Ombudsman directed to follow principles of natural justice when deciding fee enhancement issue of private Institute 

Uttaranchal High Court: Sudhanshu Dhulia, J. entertained a writ petition related to the enhancement of fee, where the petitioner who was a private institute initially took lesser fee from the student which was half of the enhanced fee, because the fee towards sports, internet, technology and personal effective and employability enhancement fee was waived. 

It was contended by the petitioner that the students took admission in the first year, completed studies and were promoted to the second year, but the same fee structure was continued for the second year as well. But the petitioner maintained that though a certain amount of fee was waived the fee structure was always same i.e. the enhanced fee. Learned counsel for the petitioners had fairly stated that they were not pressing the fee structure as that was futile and the only academic question was left before this Court.

On the contrary, the students-respondents contended that when the same reduced fee structure was charged in the second year as well they had a genuine expectation, in fact, a legitimate expectation that for the next year onwards the same fee would be charged. But the institute-petitioner insisted on payment of the fee, which was just double of what they were paying in the third year. 

Hence they moved an objection before the Ombudsman, who gave its decision in their favor and held that the demand for raised fee made by the institute was not justified. Aggrieved, the institute has filed the present petitions before this Court. By the time the petitioner forwarded his claim all the alleged respondents had completed their studies. 

The Court observed that the Ombudsman had been appointed by the Government notification to look into the disputes between the students and the management, which included the fee structure. There was no question on the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman in the instant petition.Hence the “writ petitions were disposed of with the direction that in future the Ombudsman though would always be at liberty to look into the matter including the matter regarding the fee structure, but while doing so he shall take into consideration whether the fee demanded by the institute was as per the approved fee structure i.e. what had been approved by the Fee Regulatory Committee of the students, whether the students were well apprised of the fee structure at the time when they took admission, any catalogue of such fee had been given and there was no change of fee during midstream. Suffice it to say that principles of natural justice would be followed in its letter and spirit”.[SelaQui Academy of Higher Education v. Lokpal, Uttarakhand Technical University, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 586, decided on 05-07-2019]

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