HC junks Maha autonomous colleges' pleas over fee structure

The Bombay High Court today dismissed a bunch of petitions filed by several private autonomous colleges from Maharashtra challenging a statutory provision that makes it mandatory for them to get their fee structures approved by a state body.

The petitioners had challenged the Maharashtra Unaided Private Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fees) Act 2015, which makes it mandatory for all private, autonomous institutions to get their course-wise fees approved by the state's 'Fee Regulating Authority'.

Petitioners K J Somaiya College of Engineering, L N Welingkar Institute of Management and Sardar Patel Institute of Technology had approached the high court claiming that since they were autonomous institutions, they had the sole power to fix their fees and they must not be governed by the 2015 Act.

The state government, however, had argued that as per its rules, while autonomous institutions had the power to fix their own fees, it was mandatory for them to get it approved by the Fee Regulating Committee.

The bench, too, held that while the autonomous colleges would be entitled to fix their fees in accordance with the state's 1994 and 2016 Universities Act, the 2015 Act granted powers to the regulatory committee to check whether the "fees determined by the unaided private professional educational institutions amounted to profiteering or not".

"We further find that the provisions of the Regulation Act of 2015 are not detrimental to the concept of autonomy as provided under the 1994 Universities Act and the 2016 Universities Act. We are of the considered view that there exists no conflict and that both provisions can simultaneously exist... We do not find any merit in all these three writ petitions and the same are dismissed," said the court.

It further held that if the arguments of the petitioners were accepted, it would lead to wholly "anomalous" situation.

"While all other private unaided professional educational institutions will be subject to regulation, so that they do not indulge in profiteering or commercialisation, there will be total freedom to the 'autonomous' institutions to charge fees as they desire and indulge into profiteering and commercialisation. This will be wholly contrary to the mandate of the judgements of the two constitution benches of the apex court," said the court.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)