New Delhi: In a recent decision, that is indeed going to provide relief to medical aspirants against the arbitrary fee fixation by private medical universities across the country, a Supreme Court Bench has categorically stated that Insofar as professional courses leading to degrees in Medicine and Engineering are concerned, the matter must be screened and assessed by Committee on Fixation of Fee .
The Supreme Court in the M Aamira Fathima v. Annamalai University case has directed that the varsity is neither entitled nor competent to formulate its own fee structure for medical courses without getting a prior approval from the Committee on Fixation of Fee. The university runs Rajah Muthaiah Medical College.
‘The submission that the University was entitled to fix fees on its own without the intervention of such Committee has to be rejected,’ the bench has stated emphatically.
It is reported that in the year 2013-14, 150 MBBS students who had taken admission in first MBBS course in a college under the Annamalai University moved the Madras High Court on a fee of more than Rs. 5.54 lakh annually having been imposed by the university. The students in their petition also argued that the fee-fixation committee in Tamil Nadu had stated that government colleges would charge Rs 12,290 a year for MBBS and Rs 10,290 for BDS.
The students’ petition highlighted the enormous difference in the sum charged by the university and that fixed by the government in consultation with the committee on Fixation of Fee. The students pleaded that the fixation of fee matter be referred to the Committee in terms of Tamil Nadu Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Collection of Capitation Fee) Act, 1992.
It was contended on behalf of the University that the fees stipulated by the University were in terms of its statutes and the provisions of 2013 Act: that the object of 1992 Act was to curtail the menace of self-financing colleges imposing high fees and that the Government Colleges and State Universities did not come within the purview of 1992 Act: that presently the University was running in deficit and if the fee structure was reduced it would put the financial condition of the University in great jeopardy.
The Court, however, dismissed their plea on the ground that students admitted to MBBS and BDS courses for the year 2013 -14 were bound by the terms and conditions of the prospectus for the year.
The division bench of the high court thereby dismissed writ appeals, upholding the single bench order. The High Court, upheld the definition of an educational institution as appearing in Section 2(e) of 1992 Act concluded that for the implementation of the provisions of 1992 Act, the institution should be alerted in the form of a notification by the state government and an appropriate reminder sent to the Fee Fixation Committee.
The court further observed that the university was initially established in the pre-Independence days, and merely because the prevailing act then (Annamalai University Act, 1928) was repealed and replaced by Annamalai University Act, 2013, the first limb of Section 2(b) was not applicable without the state government referring the university to the Fee Fixation Committee.
However, now in the apex court, Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the students argued that it was completely wrong on part of the high court to observe that the provisions of 1992 Act would not apply.
Defining an educational institution a bench of Justice Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Arun Mishra stated observed that the HC was indeed erroneous in the observations of the applicability of the 1992 Act. The bench further observed
“The University by its very nature of activities would be running numerous courses and to that extent provisions of the 2013 Act are general in nature. The provisions of Section 4(2-A) of the 1992 Act are specific and special and apply to courses leading to degrees in Medicine. Therefore, insofar as professional courses leading to degrees in Medicine are concerned, the matter must be screened and assessed by Committee on Fixation of Fee and the submission that the University was entitled to fix fees on its own without the intervention of such Committee has to be rejected.”
The bench asked the university to place its balance-sheet and accounts before the Committee on Fixation of Fee within two weeks. The Committee, on the other hand, was given a directive to work out an appropriate fee structure for the academic year 2013-14 for the varsity college.
Attached is the judgment below