SC directs FRC to fix Reasonable fee for Kerala Private Medical Colleges

Supreme Court has ordered the Fee Regulatory Committee (FRC) to fix a reasonable fee for the private medical institutions in Kerala for the academic year 2017-18 on the long-pending matter of MBBS fees in the self-financing medical colleges, in consideration with the previous High Court order.

The apex court reiterated, “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.”

The present case in the Supreme Court is related to the fee fixation by the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee for MBBS students in private self-financing medical colleges in the State of Kerala.

Earlier the Kerala Government moved the apex court demanding to put a stay on the interim order produced by the high court, where it stated that in the absence of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Act that came into effect in 2019, the private medical colleges should accept a fee stipulated by a State Fee Committee on the basis of an SC order that had stated that the fees should be fixed on the basis of the financial capacity of the students.

Apex court bench comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat have further instructed on Thursday to complete the entire exercise within a period of three months from the date of the verdict, i.e. 25 Feb, 2021, opining that “a reasonable opportunity should be given to the management of private self-financing colleges in respect of their proposals for fee fixation.”

When the Kerala High Court examined the laws laid down by the Supreme Court with respect to fixation of fee for professional courses in unaided medical colleges, it held that the institutions shall propose the fee structure and the scrutiny by the Committee should only be for the purpose of ensuring that the fee had not been exploitative and that the institutions had not been indulging in profiteering or collecting capitative fee.

The High Court added that the committee may direct the colleges for the purpose of ensuring that they submit the audit accounts of previous years to determine that no profiteering has been done by the institutions in fixing the fees. It clarified that the Committee couldn’t go into desirability or appropriateness of expenses incurred by the institution as per its own notions and standards.

Based on the order pronounced by the High Court, the Fee Regulatory Committee (FRC), led by a retired HC judge, had fixed the fee ranging from Rs. 6.32 Lakh to Rs. 7.65 Lakh for MBBS courses in various self-financing colleges for the academic year. However, some of the self-financing medical colleges had been demanding fees of more than Rs. 20 Lakh and filed a case in the High Court.

The managements’ of private self-financing colleges approached the High Court of Kerala challenging the order passed by the committee by which the fee fixed for years 2017-18 and 2018-19 had been repeated once again. The HC then directed the managements of private self-financing colleges to provide a statement, accompanied by an affidavit and a particular list of required documents. Prima facie, the High Court was convinced that the committee did not reconsider the matter after the judgement of the High Court.

Mentioning that the delay in finalizing the fee in medical colleges is a drawback for institutions and the students, the Supreme Court bench has directed the Committee to expeditiously reconsider the proposals of the private self-financing colleges for fee fixation from 2017-18 onwards. It also mentioned that fee for earlier years also need to be finalized in case it has not been done with respect of any college.

“We direct the Committee to expeditiously reconsider the proposals of the private self-financing colleges for fee fixation from 2017-18 onwards. Needless to mention that fee for earlier years also needs to be finalized in case it has not been done in respect of any college. It can direct the managements to furnish any information that is required for the purpose of arriving at a decision that the fee proposed by the managements is neither excessive nor exploitative in nature. A reasonable opportunity should be given to the managements of private self-financing colleges in respect of their proposals for fee fixation.”

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