Students of the Dharmashastra National Law University (DNLU), Jabalpur have written to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and other authorities demanding a permanent campus for the University and for the release of funds already allotted for the same.
DNLU Jabalpur was established in 2018 as the 22nd National Law University in the country, with 120 seats for its first batch of students. The University was the second of its kind in the State of Madhya Pradesh after NLIU Bhopal.
However, despite the passage of three years since then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra laid DNLU’s foundation stone, the University is yet to get a permanent campus of its own.
In their February 21 representation, the students point out that the absence of a permanent university campus has led to the levy of sky-high fees, given the Rs 6 crore rent that is imposed per year for renting the BSNL premises that currently houses the University.
“… our university is currently functioning from the rented campus of BSNL. It has been almost 3 years since the establishment of the university, but the construction of the campus has still not initiated. The functioning of the university from the rented campus is adversely affecting the proper functioning and the growth of the university,” reads the letter.
It is noted that in September 2020, the State government had allocated Rs 99.85 crore for the first phase of construction of the University campus, which included a boy’s hostel, a girls hostel and an academic block. However, with the release of these funds yet to come through, and with the limited grant given, the University authorities have had to charge high fees on the students, who end up paying Rs 2.05 lakhs per year, the letter states.
Speaking to Bar & Bench, Vice-Chancellor Prof Balraj Chouhan observed that the administration is on the side of the students in wanting a permanent campus for the University. However, he says that there is no option, with the State yet to release the allotted funds.
“I can only say that we are also trying. I don’t know when things will be normal and when we are going to get the funds…the students are also interested, they are trying, I am also interested, everybody is interested…But funds are not coming…”, he remarked.
He commented that he hopes something would come out of the ongoing Budget Session of the State Legislative Assembly, adding,
“We all wish that this University must have its own campus as early as possible.”
In their representation, the students note that the University generates about Rs 9 crore in revenue each year, of which Rs 5 crore comes from State government grants. After paying Rs 6 crore as rent, the University is left only with Rs 3 crore to pay the faculty, administrative staff and ground staff. As such, the University is left with little or no funds to cater to even the basic needs of the students, it is stated.
The letter adds that while the State had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University in April 2019 to pay at least the rent for the present premises, no such disbursement has taken place.
Coupled with this, it is noted that in two months or so, the number of students enrolled at the University will reach 480, even while the University does not have the infrastructure to accommodate them.
“…. the university is under grave financial insecurity, which is ultimately burdening the students of the University, who are being provided with sub-standard facilities even after paying sky high fees. The conditions have worsened to the point that the current capacity of the University in the rented campus to accommodate students is only 250 students and currently there are more than 360 students enrolled in the University,” the letter says.
It is further stated that the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the University’s Chancellor, also lamented the University’s plight last year. In a General Council meeting held in July 2020, the Chancellor is stated to have observed that the present campus does not seem like a University and that these premises were sub-standard.
As against this situation, the students have now called on the State authorities to take cognizance of the matter and do the needful to aid the University.
A copy of the letter has also been marked to the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Supreme Court judges, Justices AM Khanwilkar and Hemant Gupta, apart from Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court Justice Mohammad Rafiq and several State authorities.