Education is not business to earn profit, tuition fees must be affordable: Supreme Court

The Court upheld the order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court order to strike down the State government’s decision to hike the annual tuition fees for MBBS course in private unaided medical colleges to ₹24 lakh.

Imparting education is not a business to earn profit, the Supreme Court observed on Monday while upholding the Andhra Pradesh High Court order to strike down the State government’s decision to hike the annual tuition fees for MBBS course in private unaided medical colleges to ₹24 lakh [Narayana Medical College vs State of Andhra Pradesh].

A bench of Justices MR Shah and MM Sundresh said that the 2017 decision of the State to enhance the annual fees to ₹24 lakh, which was seven times more than the fees fixed in 2011, was unjustifiable.

“To enhance the fee to ₹24 lakhs, which is 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, the bench underscored.

The Court, therefore, imposed costs of ₹2.5 lakh each on the State government and also on appellant medical college to be paid to the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and Mediation and Conciliation Project Committee (MCPC) of the Supreme Court.

The bench also upheld the directives of the High Court to medical colleges to refund the extra fees recovered from the students under the Government Order (GO) issued in September 2017, by which the State had hiked the fees.

“The colleges cannot be permitted to retain the amount recovered pursuant to the illegal GO. The medical colleges are the beneficiaries of this illegal GO which is rightly set aside by the High Court. The respective medical colleges have used or utilized the amount recovered under GO for a number years and kept with them for a number of years on the other hand students paid the exorbitant tuition fee after obtaining loan from the financial institutions and banks and paid the higher rate of interest,” the bench opined.

If at all the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (AFRC) fixes the tuition fee which is higher than the tuition fee fixed earlier it will be always open for the medical colleges to recover the same from the concerned students. However, the respective medical colleges cannot be permitted to retain the amount collected, the bench clarified.

Determination of fee or review of fee, the judges said, shall be within the parameters of the fixation rules and shall have direct nexus to:

– location of the professional Institution

– nature of the professional course

– cost of available infrastructure

– expenditure on administration and maintenance

– reasonable surplus required for growth and development of the Institution

– revenue foregone on account of waiver of fee, if any, in respect of reserved category students

All these factors are required to be considered by the AFRC while reviewing the tuition fees, the bench added.

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