Private educational institutions offering professional courses in Maharashtra, even if registered under the Companies Act, will come under the jurisdiction of the Fee Regulatory Authority (FRA).
In an order passed by the FRA on Thursday, Vedantaa Institute of Medical Sciences’ claim of immunity from the regulatory mechanism was rejected. The Palghar-based institute, which charged 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, bringing relief to students and parents. At least 140 students have got admission into the institute.
In June, Vedantaa, the first institute in the state to register as a private limited company under the Companies Act, claimed that it was established to make profits and therefore cannot be regulated by the FRA. The authority, however, ruled that the ‘unaided, private and professional’ educational institute squarely falls within the definition of institutions under the Maharashtra Private and Unaided Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fees) Act, 2015 and is amenable to the jurisdiction of FRA.
The FRA ruled that so 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 no-lossno-profit basis, or it is run by a company incorporated to earn profit’. The Act only exempts institutes established by state, central and local governments and deemed and private universities governed by UGC norms.
The order cited landmark Supreme Court judgements (TM Pai Foundation, Islamic Academy of Education, PA Inamdar) which abhorred profiteering and commercialisation of education. The institute was given a show-cause notice earlier this month and a hearing was held. While FRA is likely to give a separate hearing to the institute for deciding its fee structure, the ad-hoc fees they prescribed for new medical institutes is Rs 6 lakh. During the earlier hearing, the institute’s management had claimed that they may have to shut down if they charge the prescribed amount, said a 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. Since new institutes do not have any proof of income and expenditure, an adhoc 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,” said a principal.
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