By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 13 Nov: It has been more than 45 days since the students of Ayurvedic medical colleges have been sitting on dharna in protest against enhanced fees being sought from them. This is in spite of a clear High Court stay against raised fees. What is even more baffling is the attitude of the state government, which has not bothered to take any initiative to resolve the problem or force the colleges to implement the High Court order.
It was on 14 October that the Government vide its Ayush Department had issued a GO raising the annual fee for BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) course from Rs 80,000 to Rs 2,15,000. However, before it could be implemented, several formalities were required to be completed and it was in December 2016 that the colleges received due sanction and started charging enhanced fees. However, strangely enough, they demanded enhanced fees with retrospective effect from 2013-14. The aggrieved students approached the Uttarakhand High Court and in the case of Lalit Mohan Tiwari & others Vs State of Uttarakhand and others, a single bench comprising Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia stayed the implementation of the government order. The Court observed that the fee was raised arbitrarily and it was done in violation of the Supreme Court’s guidelines in this regard.The Court directed the colleges to not only stop charging the enhanced fees but also return to the students within fourteen days whatever had been charged extra. The Court further reminded the state government that, as per the provisions of Uttaranchal Unaided Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fee) 2006, not the government but only a committee headed by a retired High Court judge appointed by the Uttarakhand High Court was empowered to revise and recommend revision of fee. In this case, the government had on its own revised the fee which was a clear violation of Section 4 of the said Act. Therefore, the GO was nullified by the High Court.
However, instead of implementing the court orders, the private Ayurvedic colleges continued to pressurise the students to pay enhanced fees. They appealed against the orders of the single bench before the double bench. The double bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj K Tiwari in its judgement pronounced on 9 October, 2018, clearly concurred with the judgement of the single bench and ordered the implementation of its order.
However, despite losing the case, the private Ayurvedic Colleges have continued to pressurise the students to pay enhanced fees and that, too, with retrospective effect. For example, third year students are also being asked to pay revised fees for the first as well as second year, too.
The students approached the state government asking it to ensure implementation of the High Court orders. It appears that, for the sake of formality, three different letters dated 2 November, 2018; 13 March, 2019; and 23 April, 2019 were sent by the Ayush Department asking the colleges to implement the High Court orders. But no action has been taken so far or is being contemplated, as per sources, against the colleges for not implementing the orders.
Interestingly, at least two powerful BJP leaders have their own private Ayurvedic colleges and these, too, are stated to be involved in charging higher fees in violation of the High Court orders. One of these leaders claimed on the condition of anonymity that it was not possible to run the colleges without raising the fees.
It may further be pointed out that the colleges continued to pressurise the students to pay enhanced fee with retrospective effect even after the order and when the students approached the single bench comprising Justice Manoj K Tiwari with the complaint that the students not paying higher fees were not being allowed to attend the classes and were being threatened, the court took a serious view of the same and directed the colleges to allow all students to attend the classes. The colleges tried to justify charging of the higher fees on the ground that they had filed a review petition. The judge clearly observed that mere pendency of the review petition could not be sufficient ground for violation of the orders of the court.
While the aggrieved students are sitting on dharna in protest, the government seems to be looking the other way. It is also surprising why it has not bothered to initiate constitution of the committee headed by a retired High Court judge to decide on the fee structure. Secretary, Ayush, Dilip Jawalkar did not pick up his cellphone this evening when this correspondent tried to contact him. Speaking to Garhwal Post, Lalit Mohan Tiwari, the original petitioner in this case, who has completed his BAMS course, claimed that the college administrations were threatening the students with dire consequences if they did not pay up. He also claimed that no one from the state administration or the government had attempted to reach out to the agitating students or to find out about the harassment they were being subjected to by their respective colleges. Meanwhile, a principal of one Ayurvedic college in question admitted on the condition of anonymity that the students were suffering and blamed the owners for the impasse.