MBBS fee fixation in Kerala: HC slams fee regulatory committee for slackness
Thiruvananthapuram: The issue of fee fixation for MBBS course by self financing medical colleges continues in Kerala; with the State High Court now reported to have slammed the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (AFRC), for not complying with its orders directing to issue new fee structure for these institutes.
According to recent media reports, the HC bench of honourable Justices AM Shaffique and TV Anilkumar, in its recent observation; criticized the committee for not re-fixing the MBBS fee structure of private medical colleges for academic years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. The criticism was based on the claims of the colleges' managements on its earlier directive.
The managements had moved the HC alleging that the committee AFRC failed to consider the fee fixation afresh despite the high court had set aside the committee's order last year regarding the MBBS fees structure for the abovementioned academic years and remanded the matter back for fresh consideration.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported in March 2019, that the Committee had fixed the MBBS tuition fee for per student at Rs 4.15 lakh for the 2016-17; Rs 4.80 lakh for 2017-18 and Rs 5.54 lakh for 2018-19 academic years. The medical college managements moved the state HC challenging this decision and alleged that the exercise undertaken by the committee far exceeded its powers.
After making several observations in the case, the bench ordered that the committee should pass fresh orders regarding the fee structure in two months.
Later, in July last year, the association of 19 self-financing state medical colleges had moved the apex court against the Fee Regulatory Committee (FRC), challenging its decision of 10% fee hike. However, the apex court junked its plea while directing the association to approach the State High Court first in this regard.
The medical colleges had reportedly demanded a hike in the tuition fee for MBBS course ranging between Rs 11 lakh and Rs 20 lakh, stating that they have difficulty to run the medical colleges due to a shortage of fund and increased expenditure.
However, with no fee structure issued by the fee regulatory committee till date, the private medical colleges' managements moved the HC once again alleging incompliance by the AFRC.
During the recent hearing, the managements pointed out that even after the matter was remitted to the committee and directed it to pass fresh orders, the committee did not consider their claims afresh. The committee had, in fact, confirmed its earlier fee structure, reports The Hindu.
It was contended that the AFRC ignored the documents submitted and fixed a fee that had no connection with the actual expenditure.
After hearing all the submissions, the HC bench that the committee had failed to consider the matter afresh in its proper perspective, and there is no clarity in the committee's order. Once the order passed by the committee was set aside by the court and it was directed to consider the matter afresh, it should have independently arrived at the fee structure.
… a perusal of the ASC's order does not reveal any application of mind. As per the 2019 judgment and Section 11 of Kerala Medical Education (Regulation and Control of Admission to Private Medical Educational Institutions) Act, the fee fixed should be reasonable and should consider various parameters such as location of the college, nature of the course, cost of land and building, administration and maintenance expenses, and reasonable surplus for growth and development. But no such consideration is found in the ASC's order…
… when medical colleges are functioning on self-financing mode, the fee has to be fixed on the basis of investment and income they may derive. The committee ought to have taken note of the actual income derived by the college through the fee and the expenditure they may incur during a particular year and the fee ought to have been fixed after providing for a reasonable surplus…
"There was no re-determination of the fee. The committee was expected to fix the fee based on the available materials and it could not have rejected the claims, stating that the material produced was insufficient."
The bench directed the managements to file statements in three weeks containing the particulars regarding the cost of land and building, list and value of infrastructure, list of equipment, its value and life span, salary and allowances being paid to teaching and non-teaching staff, expenditure for the administration and maintenance of the institutions, surplus for the future development and other expenditure.
The court felt:
"if these figures were available and ascertained, the actual expenditure during the academic year concerned could be ascertained and would give a clear idea of the total expenditure the college may have to incur and when it is divided by the number of students, it should be the fee that could be fixed."
TOI quotes the bench as stating that the committee had thoroughly failed in fixation of fee:
"When the Act itself gives an indication as to how the fee has to be determined, the committee is obliged to fix the fee in accordance with the statutory provisions"
The counsel for the students said that they got admission in medical colleges based on the fee structure fixed by the committee and if there was a considerable increase in the fee structure, it would be to their disadvantage. On this, the court directed the managements to file statements containing the particulars regarding the cost of land and building, list and value of infrastructure, salary and allowances being paid to teaching and non-teaching staff, among other details; reports TNIE.