New Delhi: The government cannot get out of the education sector and to continue funding public education, a judge of the Delhi High Court observed during the hearing into a petition filed by Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union leaders. The court has ordered the university to allow students, who have not registered for the next semester, to complete the formalities within the next one week.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher also told the university to allow these students to pay the applicable fees according to the pre-hike fee structure.
The judge was hearing the petition filed by a group of JNU students’ union leaders including president Aishe Ghosh who have challenged the fee hike and the new hostel manual notified last year that prompted protests in the university campus and outside.
Pinky Anand, the Additional Solicitor General, asked the court to right away reject the plea, pointing that 90 per cent of the students had gone along with the fee hike and paid up.
The judge wasn’t impressed with the reasoning. “If you don’t have a choice, what would you do?” he asked.
Justice Shakdher also countered the argument put forth by the Centre’s senior law officer that justified the fee hike, pointing that fees had been revised to pay salaries to contractual workers hired by the university.
“Government cannot get out of education. Government has to fund public education. The burden of paying the salaries of contractual workers is not on the students. Someone should find the funds, “ Justice Shakdher shot back.
The judge has slotted the next hearing on February 28.
The petition by JNUSU office bearers had asked him to intervene and order the university administration to roll back changes made to the hostel manual and the fee structure.
In the petition filed through lawyer Abhik Chimni, the students said the changes had led to an increase in hostel fees, affected the rights of reserved categories and allocation of hostel rooms, and reduced the representation of the students’ union in the IHA among other issues.
It said the high-level committee notified on November 24 had made further “illegal amendments to the hostel manual and introduced a new below-poverty line category. This would deprive many poor students of the ‘merit-cum-means scholarships’. This scheme is meant for students whose annual income does not exceed Rs 2,50,000.