President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday directed the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) to refund an amount of $11,270 for the admission dues of a student it had unjustly confiscated 15 years ago.
Giving directions in a 15-year-old matter, referred to him in 2022, he said NUST, having been established/controlled by the Federal Government, fell under the definition of “Agency” of the government, was not a private commercial entity but a service provider in the public sector, and confiscating the dues of a student by it was tantamount to exploitation and malpractice.
As per details, a student was admitted to MBBS on the Foreign SAT basis in the Session 2007 in NUST and his father (the complainant) had deposited the admission fee of $11,420.
The complainant’s son got admission to another medical university in Pakistan and he applied to NUST for a refund. The NUST refused his request on the basis of its Refund Policy.
Feeling aggrieved, the complainant approached Wafaqi Mohtasib in 2008, which directed NUST to refund the amount.
The NUST, then, filed a representation which was rejected on the ground that NUST did not explain how its policy was lawful and it failed to show that it suffered any financial loss due to the student’s decision to join another university. Hence the decision of NUST to retain the fee was termed unjustified.
NUST then filed a writ petition in Islamabad High Court in 2015 which asked the Mohtasib to pass a reasoned order on the questions that whether any maladministration was committed by NUST and that it was an “Agency” of the government.
Subsequently, the matter was remanded to the president.
President Alvi, in his decision, said since the “provisional admission” offered to the student could not be converted into final admission and another student was admitted by NUST on the seat vacated by him, therefore, NUST charged double dues against one seat, which, prima facie, was tantamount to exploitation and malpractice.
He said the act of declining a refund in the present case amounted to “forfeiture and confiscation”, which was not permissible except backed by the law.
He said although the prospectus of the University had stated that tuition fees and Development Fund would not be refunded to applicants, the admission was neither final nor matured and NUST faced no financial loss in the instant case, and therefore, the student deserved to get a refund of his dues.
The president stated that any provision of the prospectus of NUST could not travel beyond the limit prescribed by the law and the Policy or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) could not overrule the provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan i.e., in Articles 3 and 4 regarding the elimination of exploitation and rights of individuals.
He added that since NUST had committed maladministration, therefore, it was advised to refund all the dues to the student by deducting only the admission fee of $150 as NUST had initiated some process that involved expenses that were liable to be deducted.
It was further observed that NUST was established under the Act of the Parliament namely “the National University of Science and Technology Act, 1997” having the President of Pakistan as Patron-in-Chief under Section 6 and the Prime Minister of Pakistan as Chancellor under Section 8 of NUST Act, 1997, and that having been established/controlled by the Federal Government, and thus, NUST fell under the definition of “Agency” as defined in Article 2(1) of the Establishment of the Office of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Order, 1983.
The president, therefore, directed NUST to pay the confiscated amount while only deducting $150 out of the total deposited amount of $11,420.