Education is not business to earn profit: SC

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Education is not a business to earn profit, the Supreme Court has noted as it set aside a 2017 Andhra Pradesh government’s order prescribing a seven-fold increase in the medical course fee, taking it to ₹24 lakh annually, in the state.

Directing the private colleges to refund the amount collected in excess of the fee last fixed by the state government in 2011, a bench of justices MR Shah and Sudhanshu Dhulia on Monday said, “Education is not the business to earn profit. The tuition fee shall always be affordable.”

The apex court was hearing a petition filed by Narayana Medical College in Andhra Pradesh challenging a September 2019 decision of the Andhra Pradesh high court striking down the MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) fee hike and ordering refund to students admitted in the college since the academic year 2017-18.

The top court dismissed the petition with cost of ₹5 lakh to be borne equally by the petitioner college and the state government and deposited in court within six weeks. The amount was directed for use in legal services by the Supreme Court Mediation and Conciliation Committee and the National Legal Services Authority.

“To enhance the fee to ₹24 lakh per annum, i.e., seven times more than the fee fixed earlier was not justifiable at all,” the bench said, agreeing with the high court’s conclusion.

The aggrieved medical students who had to pay through their nose had submitted before the court that the September 6, 2017 government order raising the fee was done without awaiting the recommendation of the Admission and Fee Regulatory Committee (AFRC).

The bench held the order passed by the state government to be “wholly impermissible and most arbitrary”. It even went to the extent of saying that the hike was done “only with a view to favour or oblige the private medical colleges”.

“Any enhancement of the tuition fee without the recommendation of the AFRC shall be contrary to the decision of this court in the case of PA Inamdar in 2005 and the relevant provisions of the 2006 AFRC Rules (prevailing in the state),” the bench said. “The high court has rightly quashed and set aside the GO dated September 6, 2017.”