Many of you who have been waiting for your certificates or further news about what NUJS plans to do with online courses (if you don’t know the background, please read this first), have reasons to be more concerned.
When you called NUJS, sometimes you were told to wait for an Executive Council Meeting, where the fate of the course was to be decided. After being delayed several times, the meeting apparently took place on 29th September. We were waiting to know the results of the meeting.
We did not get any formal communication from NUJS. However, NUJS issued the following notification on its website, with the title of the link: Contact Person in NUJS for all communication relating to Online Courses
The notification is accessible on the following link:
This is a follow-up notice to the notification dated 27th June, 2018 (see here), uploaded on the NUJS website under the signature of the Assistant Registrar (Academic), stating that:
online courses which used to be run by the university through private partnerships have been suspended till further order. Any person enrolling for these courses would be doing it at their own risk and the University shall not be held responsible for such matters.
The earlier notification and subsequent conduct of the University created certain confusion as to the status of students who had enrolled prior to 27th June, 2018. The 27th June notice appeared to suggest nobody else should enroll, although in very unclear terms, until further orders. It did not state anything about what would happen to almost 3000 students of ongoing batches who were still studying the online courses or had finished their courses and waiting for certification.
While NUJS has never communicated with us officially despite contacting them many times, and has been breaching its contract with us since April without any communication, we had hoped that better sense will prevail and future of such a large number of students will not be jeopardized no matter how they chose to treat us. However, NUJS has continued to be unclear except showing unwillingness to resolve the matter.
The 3rd October notice emphatically states that the courses are “stopped” and provides a mechanism for communication with the university about this.
However, what does “stopped” mean? The following questions arise:
- Will the existing students be given their certificates since NUJS has taken their money, and they have completed their courses? If they have not completed yet, will they be given an opportunity to complete their course and get their certificate?
- If their course would not be completed or if certificates will not be issued where courses have been completed, will their fees be refunded? Will the students be compensated for their wasted time? What will the refund mechanism be?
- What is the basis of such a sudden decision? What caused NUJS to take such a decision for online courses it has been running for 7 years? Why was there no hearing, no transparency and no advanced information given to students?
- Why is the university refusing to issue certificates to students who have completed their courses February 2018 onwards?
- Given that almost Rs. 3 Cr needs to be refunded to students (leaving aside any compensation that may be payable under various cases filed by students), where is this money going to come from? How long will it take? Had any provision been made in NUJS budget for the same?
- While NUJS faculty members are saying that refunds will definitely be made, why is this not being put into writing? Why does the notice by registrar mention no refund?
As far as iPleaders is concerned, we have been treated very poorly by NUJS. We have never been even given an opportunity to meet or ask questions or explain our stance. We have hence had no option but to resort to arbitration. We are in the process of being heard in Kolkata HC for appointment of an arbitrator.
The problems for students is compounded by the fact that the University has not been performing several of its functions pertaining to the online courses from June 27th, 2018 (such as evaluation of assignments and certificate issuance even for the students who had taken admission prior to the date of issue of this notice).
It has also not communicated to iPleaders any particular action that we need to take. Are we supposed to continue to offer the courses? Should we continue to take the exams as per the schedule given to us by the University? Should we keep receiving and sending the assignments to the University? We have not been told anything.
Students who have attempted to call up the university authorities, meet or communicate through email have not received a satisfactory or clear response.
Those of you seeing this for the first time must go through our earlier public statement on the issue on 30th June, 2018 (see here).
Our efforts to contact the University were not fruitful. The University did not acknowledge receipt of our communication, let alone provide a response. After that, we had sent a notice of commencement of arbitration to the University. We have mentioned about these events in our earlier public statement here.
We received no response to our notice of commencement of arbitration. Upon expiry of the statutory time limit for response, we filed an arbitration petition in the Calcutta High Court for appointment of an arbitrator.
The court has not yet ordered for the appointment of arbitrator. The matter is listed as A.P. No. 620 of 2018.
Our stand with respect to students
We were expecting a favourable outcome from the EC meeting for existing students. We were hoping the details would be worked out responsibly by the University so that students do not have to suffer, but that has not happened.
Although we were not told to specifically stop enrollments, we did not allow any student to enroll after we came across the June 27th notification.
Even though NUJS has not paid our dues, we are undertaking all actions as per our responsibility under the MOUs executed with the University and incurring additional costs everyday, so that students do not have to suffer.
We are also fully in communication with students and keep them informed, even though the University has arbitrarily stopped discharging its responsibility for the courses.
Student interest for us has been paramount.
However, we can only do what we are authorised to do under the MoU and other orders by university, and cannot undertake the functions of the University itself, in its capacity as a university, such as evaluation of student assignments or issue of certificates.
Given the situation, we have no option but to suggest appropriate measures to students.
It appears that NUJS is taking an illegal action, without any explanation, that prejudice your interests. We believe that resolution of this is possible only through orders of the courts.
If any of you intend to approach the courts to take any action to protect your legal rights, we will be very happy to support in any way we can.
What should existing students do about this?
Approximately 3000 students studying various online courses conducted by the University from all over the country and from several other countries are impacted by this illegal and arbitrary conduct of the University.
As a student, you have a right to be provided the complete course you enrolled for. You filled an enrolment form on the university’s website, paid fees for the course into the bank account of the University, have an enrolment number and were entitled to receive a certificate/ diploma/ degree from the university if you successfully completed the course pass criteria.
The University suddenly stopped providing services due to you. You do not have a way to get the certificate even if you complete or completed your course. This is a breach of the University’s promise and a violation of your legal right.
When you enrolled into the course, you entered into a contract with the university, the terms and conditions of which are provided in the website itself where you had enrolled.
Given the above situation, there are few steps you can take to enforce your rights.
#1 – Send a notice demanding performance of the University’s promised functions to deliver the course
You need to send a notice (by email and physical form) to the following authorities.
Registrar (he is officially entitled to take actions for the University as per the WBNUJS Act) – [email protected]
Professor (Dr.) Anirban Mazumder, Director, School of Distance and Mass Education (SDME)
Phone Nos.: +91-33-2335-7397/05102808. 191-33-2569-4700 to 30 Extn. No. 3040 (Director) 3060 (Office)
Office Address: Prof. (Dr.) Anirban Mazumder Director, School of Distance & Mass Education (SDME),
WBNUJS Room No. 304, 3rd Floor, Academic Block
The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences
Dr. Ambedkar Bhavan, 12 LB Block. Sector-III,
Salt Lake City
Kolkata – 700098
Vice-Chancellor, NUJS – [email protected]
Vaneeta Patnaik, Course Coordinator, MA in Business Law courses – [email protected]
NUJS Landline: (+91)33-2335 7379 /0765/2806 /2809/2811/2812
Send a physical copy of the letter (marked to each of the above) as well.
University’s address is:
The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences
Dr. Ambedkar Bhavan, 12 LB Block. Sector-III,
Salt Lake City, Kolkata – 700098
Make sure you keep a proof of the acknowledgement of receipt by the University for the physical form of the notice.
This step is critical, because without this the Courts may state that your initiation of legal proceedings is premature.
#2 – Approach a consumer forum
If you do not get a response (or a satisfactory response to your letter) within the time specified in the letter, you can file a consumer complaint on lapse of such time period. One of the students of the university’s online courses has clearly listed out the steps to be followed, along with sample format of the letter and the format for consumer complaint here.
The above actions do not require you to engage a lawyer and you can do them yourself. The time to be spent or money involved is also very little.
#3 – File a writ petition at the High Court (in Calcutta preferably)
If you are a resident of West Bengal, you can file a writ petition in Calcutta High Court. If you are a resident of another state you can even file in the High Court of your state though court may not entertain jurisdiction. For a writ petition anywhere other than Calcutta High Court, you will need to establish how that High Court assumes jurisdiction over NUJS, Kolkata. As this is an online course, you can state that you were accessing it in the state where you are filing (and use the address mentioned in your enrolment form, assuming that is in the same state where you are filing).
It is highly advisable to approaching Calcutta High Court to immediately set aside the notice which says online courses are stopped.
Filing a writ also does not necessarily require a lawyer, as a litigant can argue a writ petition in person. However, drafting and argument can require a certain understanding of law. We are sharing the names of the lawyers whom we have briefed in our own matter (arbitration):
- Arnab Sardar (Advocate on Record)
- Sarvapriya Mukherjee (Arguing Counsel)
- Yashovardhan Kochar (Junior of Sarvapriya Mukherjee) – [email protected]
We will also strongly recommend that you can approach Adv. Suman Sengupta, who is a very well known lawyer in Kolkata and have handled such matters before. He is familiar with this matter and is ready to take up this case at a concessional rate. A group of students have approached him to file a case and if you are interested, message Ramanuj on 8377972123 so he can help you to coordinate with the lawyer.
#4 – Continue studying the course
In the midst of all this, it may be difficult and psychologically unnerving to continue studying, but you need to fight and hold your calm. There is nothing other than the university saying that they are stopping the courses in an obtuse way without providing necessary clarifications. You need to ensure you don’t stop performing the assignments – else the University may say that you dropped out. The onus needs to be on the university to perform its share of the actions, and this needs to be in black and white.
As far as we are concerned, everything is going on as per declared schedule. Whatever may be the vague or unclear stand of NUJS, they have not informed us to stop any activities. We will not stop the activities of the course until they give us a clear instruction to do so, which we may also protest and challenge as per legal advice.
If you however prefer not to undertake the course under such circumstances, it is totally understandable. Whether you chose to continue with the course or not is entirely your decision. We believe it is our ethical duty to students to not stop the services until we have a clear instruction from NUJS to do so.
The point is that we are dealing with illegal and arbitrary action by a government body, and the only hope to get justice will be through the courts. If you know any political parties or leaders, also feel free to reach out to them but I am not sure how successful such intervention will be. I am definitely counting on the courts.
What you should not expect
#1 – Don’t wait to unite everyone
We have noticed in the groups that students are initiating conversations to take collective action, which are not successful because of failure to coordinate or because of excessive disagreement. Remember, it is not necessary for the students to unite and present a collective front to get justice. Each one of you have an individual right to get justice. If multiple people file a case related to the same fact situation in court, the court registry will itself club the matter. Or else, find a few like minded people and combine with them to take action.
#2 – Don’t hope someone else’s actions will give you results
A lot of you are waiting for someone else to file a complaint on everyone’s behalf, or to coordinate a joint meeting with the university, or for iPleaders’ arbitration to turn a favourable outcome.
However, as students, you need to understand that you have a compelling and a very clear claim. Claim of iPleaders is one of a private technology provider, under a separate contract, as a vendor. As a service provider, we have already initiated arbitration. You are placed differently. We cannot and will not approach courts on your behalf. You need to do this yourself.
Banking on us will not give you results as fast as it will if you take the action yourself. We are also not directly in a position to represent your claim. We would, although, try our very best to get the arbitrator to address this issue, but you are in no position to count on the same and not initiate your own action.
If you get in touch with me, I will try to put you in touch with other students who have initiated legal action, which may make your job easier.
#3 – Don’t be afraid of putting in extra effort
Take action. You have already tried communicating with the University for 3 months. Many of you are trying to speak to people or reach out to see if a line of communication with the university can be opened through some higher authority. While you may continue those efforts, it may not make sense to keep your actions to enforce your legal rights on hold.
You may have resistance to initiate legal proceedings, but if that is required to be done to enforce your rights, it must be done. If no other method works, you have to ultimately use the legal system.
When you have a clear legal right, you need to be willing to enforce it. In fact, each one of you who is a student of NUJS’ online courses is enrolled in a law course. This is an opportunity to really exercise your legal rights. It may take some more effort, but it needs to be done.
If you don’t take legal action, please do not expect any miracle to happen. We have tried our best since April and realised that the only way in through the courts of justice. We will pursue the same and earnestly advice you to do the same.
What role can iPleaders play here?
Many of you may have spoken to us before making a decision to enrol in the course and subsequently reached out to us for technical support. You should know that we are service providers to NUJS under MOUs and are still performing all our duties that we are expected to, despite not being paid our dues. We are suffering tremendous loss owing to that. There is nothing else we can do other than what we are already doing.
We are, however, open to suggestions. Some of you have suggested that we should coordinate amongst the students who want to file a case. We would try our best to do so within legal limits.
If you want to speak to someone at iPleaders about this, feel free to call me on 8377972123 (Ramanuj).