Education is not a business to earn profit and tuition fees shall always be affordable, the Supreme Court has said while upholding the Andhra Pradesh High Court order quashing the state government’s decision that enhanced the tuition fee of Private Medical Colleges by seven times, to Rs. 24 lakhs per annum.
The bench of Justices MR Shah and Sudhanshu Dhulia observed that the G.O. enhancing the tuition fee on the representations made by the private medical colleges was ‘wholly impermissible and most arbitrary and only with a view to favour and/or oblige the private medical colleges’.
“To enhance the fee to Rs 24 lakh per annum i.e., seven times more than the fee fixed earlier was not justifiable at all. Education is not the business to earn profit. The tuition fee shall always be affordable,” the bench said.
The Supreme Court’s observation came while dismissing a plea filed by the college against an order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court which set aside the government’s decision to enhance the tuition fee of MBBS students.
The High Court had held that considering the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (for Professional Courses offered in Private Un-Aided Professional Institutions) Rules, 2006, the fee cannot be enhanced/fixed without the recommendations/report of the committee.
The Supreme Court said several factors such as the location of the professional institution, nature of the professional course, cost of available infrastructure are required to be considered by the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee while determining or reviewing the tuition fees.
Dismissing an appeal filed by a medical college, the court upheld the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment that had quashed the Government Order.
The court noted that following the judgment in Inamdar and Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors.; (2005) 6 SCC 537, the State of Andhra Pradesh framed Rules called the Andhra Pradesh Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (for Professional Courses offered in Private UnAided Professional Institutions) Rules, 2006. Rule 4 of the Rules, 2006 is with respect to the fee fixation.
It said the college management cannot be permitted to retain the amount recovered/collected pursuant to the illegal government order.
“In view of the above and for the reasons stated above both the appeals fail and the same deserve to be dismissed and are accordingly dismissed, however, with cost which is quantified at Rs 5 lakh to be equally paid by the appellant as well as the State of Andhra Pradesh to be deposited with the Registry of this Court within a period of six weeks,” the bench said.
Accepting the report of the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committeer (AFRC), the State Government issued G.O. dated 18.06.2011 fixing and enhancing the fee for the academic years 2011-12 to 20131-4.
However, later, for the block years 2017 to 2020, without waiting for the report from the AFRC and on the representations made by the private medical colleges, the State Government issued G.O. dated 06.09.2017 and enhanced the tuition fee payable by the MBBS students.
Allowing writ petitions filed challenging this GO, the High Court held that the fee could not be enhanced/fixed without the recommendations/report of the AFRC.
In appeal, the bench referring to relevant provisions of the Rules of 2006, observed that the State could not have enhanced the fee during the review pending with the AFRC.
“Once the State Government enacted the Rules, 2006 which provides determination and fixation and the review of the tuition fees by the AFRC, the State Government was bound by the Rules, 2006 and could not have enhanced the fee during the review pending with the AFRC. To enhance the fee unilaterally would be contrary to the objects and purpose of Andhra Pradesh Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admissions and Prohibition of Capitation Fee) Act, 1983 as well as the Rules, 2006 and the decision of this Court in the case of P.A. Inamdar (supra). To enhance the fee to Rs. 24 lakhs per annum i.e., seven times more than the fee fixed earlier was not justifiable at all. The education is not the business to earn profit. The tuition fee shall always be affordable. Determination of fee/review of fee shall be within the parameters of the fixation rules and shall have direct nexus on the factors mentioned in Rule 4 of the Rules, 2006, namely, (a) the location of the professional institution; (b) the nature of the professional course; (c) the cost of available infrastructure; (d) the expenditure on administration and maintenance; (e) a reasonable surplus required for growth and development of the professional Institution; (f) the revenue foregone on account of waiver of fee, if any, in respect of students belonging to the reserved category and other Economically Weaker Sections of the society. All the aforesaid factors are required to be considered by the AFRC while determining/reviewing the tuition fees. Therefore, the High Court is absolutely justified in quashing and setting aside G.O. dated 06.09.2017.”, the court observed