Mangaluru, Feb 06, 2018: Three former students of St. Aloysius College in Mangaluru have finally won compensation from their institute after a prolonged court battle in which the students represented themselves since they could not afford a lawyer.
Sandhya D’Souza and Reena S were part of the first batch of the MS Communication course at St. Aloysius institute in 2008, and Harsha Raj was part of the 2009 batch of Master of Communication and Media Studies.
When the trio graduated, they were not given their degrees as the institute was yet to gain approval from Mangalore University for the courses they had advertised.
"The institute, which was yet to gain approval from the University, started the course in 2008. They applied for the course application and did not wait for the approval to come. They started the course. It gained approval only in 2011 and the University told students that whoever graduated in 2011 will not receive degrees," recounts Sandhya.
When the university gained approval, it did not recognise students from the 2008 and 2009 batches as they had completed their studies before the approval was finalised.
Not ones to take things lying down, the trio filed a case in the district consumer forum in 2012 and were awarded their degrees and compensation for the course fees they paid only for the institute to take the case up to the state and national level.
"When the district court ruled in our favour, they took the matter up to the Karnataka consumer court and then to Delhi. When the court cases were in Mangaluru or Bengaluru, it was easy for us to go to the court and represent ourselves but when we were fighting the case in the Delhi court, the three of us would pool in our resources and one of us would go to Delhi to take part in the hearings," says Sandhya.
Even when the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ruled in our favour, the institute failed to repay the students the full course fee and the trio had to start from scratch all over again by filing another case in the district consumer court. After a series of court hearings which were again taken up to the state and national levels, the institute finally paid the trio their course fee and litigation expenses in January 2018.
The compensation comes five-and-a-half years after the trio first took the institute to court. “When I graduated I wanted to do a PhD but I was not able to, since I was fighting to get my master’s degree. Instead of filing job applications we were filing court applications,” says Sandhya. While Sandhya did not manage to do a PhD, she worked with Deccan Herald while Harsha Raj worked with The Indian Express in Bengaluru and Reena at Samaya TV while simultaneously following up on the constant merry-go-round of court cases.
The trio also received help along the way as two lawyers - Shridhar Chakravarty and Gangadhar Ullal - gave guidance to the trio on a pro-bono basis.
The trio’s success paves the way for 21 other former students of the institute from the 2008 and 2009 batches to demand compensation for themselves.