Professional College Fees Must be Non-Exploitative
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court of India has finally put an end to the long-standing disputes involving the State, management and students regarding the fixation of fees by unaided professional institutions. While the Court held that unaided professional institution has the autonomy to decide the fee to be charged for professional courses, the fee should not result in profiteering or collection of capitation fee. The judgment is based on numerous appeals stemming from over three rounds of litigations involving the State, management and students.
The Supreme Court has confirmed the judgment of the High Court of Kerala of February 2019. In that judgment, the High Court of Kerala had asked the State’s Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee to closely scrutinize the fee suggested by the managements to examine if the fee proposed was not excessive and to eliminate any element of profiteering or collection of capitation fee. While the judgment did not delve into the merits of the fee structure of any individual college, it conformed to the principles of fee fixation laid down by the Government as per law. The Court had held that regulation of fee is within the domain of the Regulatory Committee which shall ensure that the fee is nonexploitative and reasonable.
The Supreme Court agreed with the Kerala High Court that the lack of clarity over the fee structure for MBBS in private aided and unaided colleges was beneficial neither for the institutions nor the students. Therefore, the Supreme Court directed the Regulatory Committee to expeditiously reconsider the proposals of the private self-financing colleges for fee fixation from the year 2017-18 onwards. The Court also observed that the fee for earlier years also needs to be finalized in case it has not been done in respect of any college.
The Supreme Court also said that the Regulatory Committee could direct college managements to provide information necessary to arrive at a decision on complaints against colleges. The Court ordered that a reasonable opportunity should be given to the management of the private self-financing colleges in respect of their proposals for fee fixation and that the entire exercise shall be completed within a period of three months from the date of the judgment.