Mumbai: The Vedantaa Institute of Medical Science ‘s (VIMS) claim of immunity from the regulatory mechanism of the Fee Regulatory Authority (FRA) was rejected by the body, through an order, on Thursday. The FRA stated that as all private educational institutions offering professional courses in Maharashtra, even if registered under the Companies Act, are to come under the jurisdiction of the Fee Regulatory Authority (FRA).
With the order having been issued, the Palghar-based institute, which charges Rs 14 lakh per annum as fees, the highest among private institutes in the state, may have to slash it to Rs 6 lakh-the ad-hoc fees prescribed for new institutes. This will bring relief to students and parents. The institute, presently, has a student strength of 140.
In June, Vedantaa declared that it did not fall under the jurisdiction of FRA, as it was the Ist institute to be registered as a private limited company under the Companies Act, and established to make profits. The authority in response to this claim ruled that the ‘unaided, private and professional’ educational institute squarely fell within the definition of institutions under the Maharashtra Private and Unaided Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fees) Act, 2015 and therefore was within the FRA bounds.
The authority further ruled that as long as the Act of 2015 is in force, ‘it is irrelevant whether the institute is under the aegis of a trust set up with the avowed object of spreading education on the no-loss-no-profit basis, or it is run by a company incorporated to earn profit’.
The Act of 2015 only exempts institutes established by the state, central and local governments and deemed and private universities governed by UGC norms, the body further clarified.
The order cited landmark Supreme Court judgements (TM Pai Foundation, Islamic Academy of Education, PA Inamdar) which negated profiteering and commercialisation of education.
A show-cause notice was furnished to the institute, earlier this month, and a hearing held. While FRA is likely to hold a separate hearing to the Institute for deciding its fee structure, the ad-hoc fees prescribed by it for new medical institutes is Rs 6 lakh.
During the earlier hearing, the institute’s management had claimed that a closure might be in the offing, if they charge the prescribed amount, said an FRA member.
“The institute authorities claimed that they have taken loans and the FRA does not take into account the interest on these loans while deciding the fee structure. They also pointed out that the students had given an affidavit accepting the fee structure,” added the member.
The FRA, a quasi-judicial body, regulates fee prescribed by private, unaided and professional colleges based on their balance-sheets. In the absence of any proof of income and expenditure, an ad-hoc fee is prescribed. “The authority’s role is also to help in the development of institutions. They cannot turn a blind eye to the needs of private institutes,” the Principal told TOI.