Monday, May 2, 2016

"Capitation Fee is illegal and just not permissible. " : SC while defining obligation of the State in respect of Admission of Students on merits

While adjudicating CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4060 OF 2009 between appellants MODERN DENTAL COLLEGE AND RESEARCH CENTRE & ORS. ...VERSUS...respondents STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH & ORS, the Supreme Court of India has considered Capitation Fee not only illegal but also not permissible in the eyes of laws and emphatically redefined the liability of the State in respect of regulating admissions of the students on merits recently and observed as follows that: "I have no hesitation in upholding the vires of the impugned legislation which empowers the state government to regulate admission process in institutions imparting higher education within the state. In fact, the State being responsible for welfare and development of the people of the State, ought to take necessary steps for welfare of its student community. The field of ‘higher education’ being one such field which directly affects the growth and development of the state, it becomes prerogative of the State to take such steps which further the welfare of the people and in particular pursuing higher education. In fact, the State Government should be the sole entity to lay down the procedure for admission and fee etc. governing the institutions running in that particular state except the centrally funded institutions like IIT, NIT etc. because no one can be a better judge of the requirements and inequalities-in-opportunity of the people of a particular state than that state itself. Only the State legislation can create equal level playing field for the students who are coming out from the State Board and other streams. Merit is the cumulative assessment of worth of any individual based on different screening methods. Ideally, there should be one common entrance test conducted by the State both for government colleges and for private unaided educational institutions to ensure efficacy, fairness and public confidence. If private unaided educational institutions are given unfettered right to devise their own admission procedure and fee structure, it would lead to situation where it would impinge upon the “right to equality” of the students who aspire to take admissions in such educational institutions. Common Entrance Test by State or its agency will ensure equal opportunity to all meritorious and suitable candidates and meritorious candidates can be identified for being allotted to different institutions depending on the courses of study, the number of seats and other relevant factors. This would ensure twin objects:- (i) fairness and transparency and (ii) merit apart from preventing mal-administration. Thus, having regard to the larger interest and welfare of the student community to promote merit and achieve excellence and curb mal-practices, it would be permissible for the State to regulate admissions by providing a centralized and single window procedure. Maintenance and improvement of public health and to provide health care and medical services is the constitutional obligation of the State. To discharge this constitutional obligation, the State must have the doctors with professional excellence and commitment who are ready to give medical advice and services to the public at large. State can satisfactorily discharge its constitutional obligation only when the aspiring students enter into the profession based on merit. Fundamental Rights of private unaided professional colleges must yield to public interest and rights of the students at large: Right to be treated fairly and to get admission through a non-arbitrary, nondiscriminatory, fair and transparent procedure is a fundamental right of the students under Article 14. Any law which creates an artificial classification between private unaided institutions and other institutions and creates a disparity in the matter of admission whereby a meritorious student could be denied admission to pursue higher education in a private unaided institution solely because such institution has an unfettered right to choose its own students without following a uniform and transparent admission procedure would be violative of the rights of the aspiring students guaranteed under Article 14. Right of the students to admission in private unaided medical colleges is a right of equality in opportunity. Capitation fee cannot be permitted to be charged and no seat can be permitted to be appropriated by payment of capitation fee. “Profession” has to be distinguished from “business” or a mere “occupation”. While in business, and to a certain extent in occupation, there is a profit motive, profession is primarily a service to society wherein earning is secondary or incidental. A student who gets a professional degree by payment of capitation fee, once qualified as a professional, is likely to aim more at earning rather than serving and that becomes a bane to society. The charging of capitation fee by unaided minority and non-minority institutions for professional courses is just not permissible".

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