The Supreme Court has said that tuition fee should always be affordable and education is not a business to earn profit, as it upheld the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgement to quash the state government's decision to enhance the tuition fee in medical colleges to Rs 24 lakh per annum. A bench of Justices MR Shah and Sudhanshu Dhulia said that 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.
"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," it said in its judgement on Monday.
The bench said the determination of fee or review of fee should 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) 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.
The bench said: "All the aforesaid factors are required to be considered by the AFRC (Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee) while determining/reviewing the tuition fees. Therefore, the High Court is absolutely justified in quashing and setting aside G.O. dated September 6, 2017." The top court imposed Rs 5 lakh cost on the petitioner, Narayana Medical College, and Andhra Pradesh to be deposited with the court registry within a period of six weeks.
The bench said the medical colleges are the beneficiaries of the illegal GO (government order), which was rightly set aside by the high court. "The respective medical colleges have used/utilised the amount recovered under GO. dated 06.09.2017 for a number of 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/banks and paid the higher rate of interest," said the bench.
The top court made these observations while dismissing a plea filed by a medical college challenging the high court judgement. "If at all the AFRC determines/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 illegally pursuant to G.O. dated 06.09.2017," it said.
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.