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3 Private Universities in Haryana Accused of Financial Embezzlement, Flouting Rules

Ashoka University has been accused of not admitting enough students of Haryana domicile and giving them fee concessions.
3 Private Universities in Haryana Accused of Financial Embezzlement, Flouting Rules

Ashoka University campus in Haryana's Sonipat. Image Courtesy: ashoka.edu.in

Three private universities in Sonipat have been issued show-cause notices by the Haryana government for alleged embezzlement and violation of the state’s Private Universities Act, 2006, in the last four months.

Ashoka University, World University of Design (WUD) and SRM University were issued notices under the Act by additional chief secretary (higher education) Anand Mohan Sharan, The Print reported. “We were receiving complaints about these universities and hence had to get an explanation from them,” he said.

Accusing Ashoka University of “financial embezzlement” by not admitting enough students of Haryana domicile or giving them fee concession, as required under the Act, Sharan told The Print, “In the case of Ashoka University, we were getting complaints that they are not admitting students from Haryana domicile. What they are believed to have done amounts to financial embezzlement.”

The Act makes it compulsory for a private university to reserve, at least, 25% of seats for students of Haryana domicile, out of which 10% of seats shall be reserved for students belonging to the SC category. A university must also provide fee concessions to such students—full fees concession to one-fifth of 25%, 50% concession to two-fifth of the 25% and 25% concession to the remaining.

Alleging “fudging of figures and making it a blatant case of maladministration and misinformation causing financial embezzlement”, the state government warned the university of registering a criminal case if it doesn’t reply to the notice within the stipulated time, The Indian Express reported.

According to sources, the university had earlier been asked to provide course-wise and year-wise data of the last five years of admissions of Haryana domicile students and fee concessions. “After examination of the data, it was found that the enrolment of students of Haryana domicile is low in all courses, which defeats the purpose of the provisions of the Act,” the notice reads.

It has been found that there is a serious lapse on the part of Ashoka University, Sonipat, in clear violation of the Haryana Private Universities Act, 2006. Thus, in the exercise of the power conferred upon me, the vice-chancellor (VC), Ashoka University, is hereby served a show-cause notice to explain why the penalty prescribed under the Act may not be imposed and why an FIR may not be lodged for financial embezzlement?” the notice further reads.

Denying the “unwarranted” charges and terming the notice “totally misconceived and contrary to the provisions” of the Act, an Ashoka University spokesperson told The Print, “The university has strictly followed the Haryana Private Universities Act’s requirements of reservation for students from Haryana. All admitted students who are from the domicile of Haryana receive fee concessions from Ashoka University as specified in the Act.”

In fact, the university offers generous financial aid to more than 45% of its students (over 3,500 students have been supported over the years with over Rs 325 crore in scholarships), well beyond the requirements of the Act, the spokesperson told The Indian Express.

Claiming that the university “follows a merit-based admission policy as mandated by the [Section 35] Act”, the spokesperson said, “This merit-based admissions policy has been applied to all applicants, including Haryana students and general category students. The university has ensured that no seats were denied to students who met the merit requirements. Seats that were not filled from the Haryana quota have remained largely unfilled despite a provision for transfer of seats to other categories.”

The university claimed to be “fully committed to the state government’s objectives in ensuring that students from Haryana continue to benefit from high-quality, world-class education in their home state.”

The other two universities, WUD and SRM, were issued notices for starting “courses without approval from the state government” and these were “serious lapses” on their part, Sharan told The Print.

WUD was fined Rs 10 lakh under Section 44(A) of the Act for “maladministration, misinformation and not maintaining the standard”, and in “contravention” of Section 34A of the Act, The Tribune reported. A show-cause notice had already been issued to the university in 2020 for allegedly contravening Section 34A of the Act.

According to Section 34A of the Act, a university intending to start a new course has to intimate the same to the government along with an assessment report while the government specifies the manner in which the university shall commence enrolment of students and give authorisation.

Universities cannot commence the first enrolment of students without specific authorisation from the government. “In no case, the application for authorisation be kept pending beyond 120 days, where after it shall be deemed to have the concurrence of the government to start the course or programme of study,” says the Act.

Denying the charges, WUD VC Sanjay Gupta in an email response to The Print, said: “WUD has never started a course without the permission of the state government.”

Similarly, SRM University had commenced courses without the state government’s approval, the notice alleges. It was a “serious lapse” on the part of SRM University and a “clear violation” of the Act, the notice reads.

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