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Fee Fixation must be in accordance with the section 11 of Kerala Medical Education Act, 2017: Supreme Court

The committee established for fee fixation of a medical college, should comply with the section 11 of the Kerala Medical Education (Regulation and Control of Admission to Private Medical Educational Institutions) Act, 2017. A reasonable opportunity should be given to the managements of private self-financing colleges in respect of their fee fixation. This proclamation was made by the Supreme Court presided by J. L. NAGESWARA RAO & J. S. RAVINDRA BHAT in the case of Najiya Neermunda & Anr. Etc. vs. Kunhitharuvai Memorial Charitable Trust & Ors. Etc. [Civil Appeal Nos . 606 – 616 of2021].

In the present case, the State of Kerala enacted Kerala Professional Colleges or Institutions Act, 2006. The said Act was replaced by Kerala Medical Education (Regulation and Control of Admission to Private Medical Educational Institutions) Act, 2017. Certain provisions of the 2017 Act were challenged by way of Writ Petitions filed in the High Court of Kerala. The fixation of admission fee for all the medical colleges in the State of Kerala provisionally at Rs. 5 Lakh by the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee was also subject matter of challenge in the said Writ Petitions. Section 8 of the 2017 Act delineates the powers and functions of the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee constituted under Section 3 of the 2017 Act. The challenge to Sections 8(1)(a) and Section 11 of the 2017 Act was rejected by the High Court in its judgment. The matter was remanded back by the High Court only because the orders were passed without quorum.

The honorable court observed, “Except laying down principles of fee fixation, the High Court did not examine the merits of any case while remanding the matter for reconsideration in accordance with law by its judgment dated 28.02.2019. The Committee shall reexamine the proposals of the Managements of Medical Colleges for the fixation of fee 2017-18 onwards. We find force in the submission that no fetter can be placed on the exercise of power for fee fixation by the Committee, which shall be in accordance with the factors that are mentioned in Section 11 of the 2017 Act. The High Court committed an error in directing the Committee to take into account only audited balance sheets, and provisional profit and loss accounts in the absence of audited balance sheets, to fix the fee. Though we are in agreement with the submission made on behalf of the managements that the fee as proposed by them should be considered by the Committee, it is no more res integra that the right conferred on the institutions to fix fee for professional courses is subject to regulation. It need not be reiterated that unaided professional institutions have the autonomy to decide on the fee to be charged, subject to the fee not resulting in profiteering or collection of capitation fee. Regulation of fee is within the domain of the Committee which shall ensure that the fee is non-exploitative and reasonable.”

The court further held, “Suffice it to mention that the Committee shall reconsider the proposals of the managements for fee fixation 2017-18 onwards by taking into account the factors mentioned in Section 11 of the 2017 Act and the law laid down by this Court in Modern Dental College & Research Centre. The delay that is caused in finalizing the fee in medical colleges is beneficial neither to the institutions nor the students. Therefore, we direct the Committee to expeditiously reconsider the proposals of the private self financing colleges for fee fixation from 2017-18 onwards. A reasonable opportunity should be given to the managements of private self-financing colleges in respect of their proposals for fee fixation. The entire exercise shall be completed within a period of three months from today.”

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