Recalling the observations made in an interim order issued in 2017 that the fee charged by the four deemed universities in Puducherry was arbitrary and prohibitory, the Madras High Court directed the Puducherry Fee Committee to fix the fee to be charged by these institutions for postgraduate medical and dental courses till the 2020-21 academic year. These universities were charging nearly Rs 48 lakh, more than double of Rs 22.77 lakh that was fixed by the committee.
Passing orders on a public interest litigation moved by advocate VBR Menon, a division bench comprising Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice V Bhavani Subbaroyan set aside the contention of the varsities that only a hand full of candidates were admitted in the vacant seats that were available after the interim direction and that the other candidates who have paid the full fee as fixed by the universities could not take advantage of the present situation.
When it issued interim direction on June 16, 2017, the court had taken note of the peculiar and alarming situation in Puducherry regarding the fee demanded by the deemed universities and had observed that the fee was unreasonably high, arbitrary and prohibitory, the bench pointed out.
“The court was also conscious of the fact that the students were not before it, but the writ petition was filed as public interest litigation. Taking note of this, the court observed that it cannot shut its eyes to impediments in the way of individual litigation by young students and the court can take note of the facts pleaded by a public-spirited citizen in a PIL and suo motu pass orders to redress the grievances of the student community,” the bench said. It also added that the note issued in 2017 by CENTAC and the Department of Health were on a wrong understanding that the Puducherry Fee Committee cannot exercise jurisdiction for fixation of fee by the deemed universities. “Therefore, the court would be well justified and legally right in issuing a direction for the Puducherry Fee Committee to exercise its powers and fix the fee for the respondent institutions/deemed to be universities from the academic year 2017-18 onwards, as there is absence of any central legislation on the subject as on date,” the bench led by Justice Sivagnanam held.
It added that the National Medical Commission (NMC) should determine the fee structure in accordance with the NMC Act, 2019, for the academic year 2021-22. After the committee fixed the fee amount, the deficit or refund should be done in terms of its earlier order issued on June 16, 2017, said the bench.