Private medical colleges cannot collect next year’s fee in advance: Kerala High Court

Collecting annual fees from students in advance for the following year when the previous year’s studies are not completed by an institution would amount to “profitability”. different year from the year taught.

However, the Supreme Court made it clear that its instructions should only act in the special situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, when instructions given to medical colleges for a particular year could not be completed within the specified time due to the virus outbreak. .

A bench of judges AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP said conceptually fees are fees for a service rendered and if collected for a future period it would be a payment for services yet to be rendered and in such a situation, “the educational institutions would then resort to the pursuit of profit.”

“The COVID pandemic has undoubtedly created an unusual or exceptional situation with financial implications. However, the exceptional situation did not only affect the educational institutions, but also the student community and their donors,” the court said.

“We believe that it would be unscrupulous on the part of the concerned private medical education institutions to demand the established fees without taking into account the difficulties faced by the students,” the bank said.

The court’s comments and directions arose from several petitions filed by the medical students, who were admitted to the 2019-2020 MBBS course in various private medical colleges, against the notices for compensation related to the third year of their education when they were still in their second year which could not be completed within the allotted time due to the pandemic.

The students had argued by claiming fees for a year other than the one for which instructions are given, the educational institutions involved actually collect the established fees in advance and this is not allowed.

The educational institutions, on the other hand, justified the requirement by stating that it is the third calendar year since the student was admitted and thus they are entitled to collect the annual fee set for the third year. The Supreme Court noted that as a result of the lockdown imposed by the state government in the wake of the global COVID pandemic, “there was an inevitable interruption of the study and that, as the months passed in the calendar year, there was no simultaneous progress in the instruction months that formed the academic year”.

“This led to the situation where the applicants (student) were requested to transfer the amount due for the third year of their course, when in fact they were only attending the second year of their course,” it added.

Referring to the various legal provisions and the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case Islamic Academy of Education and Another v. State of Karnataka and Others, the Supreme Court said it believed that “it would be completely unfair and unjust to destroy the educational institutions.” requesting those involved in these subpoenas to collect the established annual fees in respect of any academic year, except that for which instructions are now being given.”

In the Islamic Academy case, the highest court had ruled that institutions should only charge fees for one year in accordance with the rules and not for the entire course, the supreme court noted. The apex court had also noted that if, for some reason, fees have already been collected for an extended period of time, the amount so collected will be held in a fixed deposit at a nationalized bank against which no loan or advance may be made, so that the interest that are built on it can be to the benefit of the students, the Supreme Court said.

“It is therefore clear that the educational institutions are not entitled to collect any amount in tuition fees for a period longer than the academic year in question. When collecting the third-year fees, while the student is in the second year of the course, they would do just that,” the bank said.

It then ordered: “We therefore authorize these written petitions by directing those among the accused private medical institutions, where the petitioners study in these written petitions, to refrain from claiming or collecting academic fees.” of them in respect of any academic year other than that for which instructions are currently being given.

“We make it clear that the instructions issued in this judgment should only be carried out in the above-mentioned special situation created by the COVID pandemic.”

Sajal Jain
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