Apex Court stays order to compensate KSOU’s Kerala students

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has stayed the order issued to the Mysuru-based Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) to pay compensation of Rs. 3 lakh each to the students for discontinuing its various educational programmes from August 2014, in Kerala.

A Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao issued notice to Brainnet and others, which had entered into an agreement with the Open University to run study centres in Kerala. The court admitted for consideration a Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the Varsity against the Kerala HC’s order of Nov. 22, 2017.

The Open University, represented by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi and advocate Shailesh Madiyal, in its plea, contended that the courses were closed after a public notice was issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) on June 26, 2013 and subsequent circular issued on August 23, 2013, stating that Open Universities could not operate beyond their territorial jurisdiction.

The Apex Court, however, decided to examine only the question of payment of compensation to the students. “In the meantime, there shall be stay on recovery of the compensation,” the Bench said.

Acting on a batch of writ petitions, the Kerala High Court had directed to pay Rs. 3 lakh compensation to each student if the University failed to make alternative arrangement for them to pursue the course in Karnataka without reference to the course and fee structure, the petitioner University said.

The KSOU, on its part, claimed that it had merely acted under the KSOU Act for collaborating with study centres to run courses and it was then not in conflict with the UGC Act. The petitioner Varsity further submitted that it was ready to conduct examinations for the students who enrolled prior to Aug. 30, 2014, provided the UGC granted permission for it.

The Kerala HC, in its judgement, had held that the UGC could not be directed to approve the study centre to run courses in Kerala and the students who lost prime years of their lives must be compensated for the misconduct of the KSOU.