Justice for NUJS online course students

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NUJS Online Courses Cancellation - Students' Representation

Dear Sir,

We are writing to express our grievances at unfair treatment and a very difficult situation we have been put into. As the new incoming Vice Chancellor, we repose our faith in you that you will take care of our interests and do justice.

On 27th June, 2018, NUJS uploaded a notice on its website suspending all online courses which were conducted with the assistance of private entities. NUJS conducted certain online courses with the assistance of online technology and other assistance provided by iPleaders. We enrolled into these courses from NUJS website, paid the fees to NUJS and sent the enrollment forms to the university, and thereafter were allotted proper enrollment numbers for our respective courses. The details about admitted students are available in the course registers maintained by the university for the respective courses, which some of us have personally verified by visiting your University in the past.

Thereafter we have pursued our respective courses as suggested by the University. Most of us have finished pursuing our courses and have been waiting for certificates when the notice from NUJS hit us like a bolt from the blue. We have not known for what fault of ours we have been denied certificates for which we have worked very hard.

Approximately 3000 students who were studying the courses or had finished their curriculum and exams and were waiting for certificates at that point in time were adversely affected. No information was provided by the University on what would happen to the courses of these students. Our repeated mails and calls went unanswered and no reply has been received till date.

We fail to understand as to why some of the students who had already completed the courses before the suspension were also denied certificates against all logic.

Some of the students had filed a writ against this decision of the University in the Calcutta High Court, which had ordered a stay against the suspension in October 2018, and the stay sustained for a period of approximately four months, during which the students continued studying the courses they were enrolled in and a majority of us finished our courses during this period. iPleaders, the third party service provider engaged by the University to provide its online platform and other administrative support to students, accordingly continued providing access to the platform to the students, as per the terms of the stay.

Thus, while the stay against the University’s decision was still ongoing, thousands of other students of online courses had completed the courses, but not received certificates.

The interim stay was vacated by the Calcutta High Court in February 2019 on some technical grounds that the wrong document has been challenged in the writ (not on merits of our case), rendering the fate of the students in jeopardy as the stay ceased to be in effect.

NUJS’ argument in court proceedings has been that the courses were illegal, primarily on grounds of not obtaining requisite UGC approvals for conducting the courses.

We want to bring to your notice that until 4th July 2018, there were no UGC Regulations governing such online courses and UGC had not recognised any online courses in India upto that point. UGC has never raised any questions regarding the online courses or have ever stated the same is illegal. Even when UGC has been impleaded in our cases, UGC counsel has never once suggested that there is any illegality in the online courses.

Further, it is settled law as per numerous decisions of the Supreme Court that rules and regulations issued by statutory authorities are to be interpreted prospectively. Accordingly, the university is free to prospectively cancel any courses it conducts, but not at the cost of students who have already enrolled or completed a course and awaiting certificates.

It is to be noted that these courses were approved by the governing bodies of the University and conducted successfully since July 2012. The University introduced more courses until 2016 on the basis of approvals received from such governing bodies. Thousands of students from the previous batches have successfully completed the course and have been awarded certificates, and are doing well professionally. Many current students who stand impacted by the suspension have enrolled into the courses on the basis of recommendations of such students.

Please note that if you declare these courses illegal and refuse to issue us certificates, it will also be your legal duty to call back all such certificates already awarded to such students over the years. This includes not only online courses, but all the various distance learning courses run by NUJS since the university had UGC recognition for none of those courses. After all, students of similarly placed courses cannot be treated differently.

If the governing bodies of the University had a change of mind about the legal validity of the courses, they could have subsequently applied to the UGC to recognize the courses, but it was not done.

We plead you to take note of the fact that the sudden reversal of its stance after 6 years of successfully conducting the courses is arbitrary and against the student’s interest. We have been given no opportunity to be heard by anyone at NUJS, and certainly not the decision making bodies to be heard on the matter, nor were we given any reasonable opportunity to present our side of the situation. This is a violation of basic legal principle of audi alteram partem.

We request you as the new Vice Chancellor to remedy this grave violation of our rights and give an opportunity to the students of online courses to represent themselves in person before you and other decision making authorities in the presence of various course coordinators with whose assurances and guidance we enrolled in our courses and pursued these courses, namely Prof. Sujata Roy, Prof. Anirban Mazumdar and Prof. Vaneeta Patnaik.

There are students who have studied and completed a 3 months’ course and are awaiting their certificate for over a year. There are others who have pursued the course and submitted monthly assignments and given tests for the past one or two years, depending on the course they were enrolled in.

If the University arbitrarily decides to suspend a course it was conducting midway, it must keep in mind the effort put in by these students and compensate them for the same. They must provide a full refund, interest for the delayed repayment and compensation for the mental agony of pursuing the course and then being told suddenly that their courses are suspended, without any clarity over the status of their course or their fees from the date of the suspension of the course in June 2018.

This confusion has persisted for over a year.

This situation is very complex, and impacts the finances and careers of over 3000 learners who are across the country and international learners as well. Some of the students have filed cases for refund against the university in Delhi High Court and several consumer forums across the country.

We are requesting an opportunity to make a representation and arrive at an outcome which is fair to all the parties involved. Please give us a time for 1 hour on any day of your choice in the month of July for us to meet you and present our situation before you for appropriate redressal. We have complete faith that you will not let innocent students like us suffer for no fault of ours.