The Supreme Court on Friday declared that Annamalai University was neither entitled nor competent to devise its own fee structure and charge fees higher than other educational institutions in Tamil Nadu for its professional courses .

In a victory for students, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U.U. Lalit concluded that the varsity should have let the Committee on Fixation of Fee, formed under the Tamil Nadu Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Collection of Capitation Fee) Act of 1992 fix its fee structure.

“The matters shall, therefore, have to be referred to the said Committee and the university is directed to place the entire material including its balance sheet and accounts before the Committee on Fixation of Fee within two weeks from the date of this judgment. The Committee shall thereafter bestow attention and fix appropriate fee structure for the academic year 2013-14 onwards,” Justice Lalit, who authored the judgment for the Bench, ordered.

The court further directed that “ït goes without saying that if the fee structure fixed by the university is found by the Committee to be inappropriate, consequential benefit and advantage shall be given to each and every student. The Committee shall fix the appropriate fee structure for the current academic session 2018-19 as well”.

The court directed the entire exercise to be completed by August 31. The 1992 Act was amended in 2007 to insert a provision to set up the committee to fix the fee structure for educational institutions. “The legislative intent is very clear and no educational institution can receive or collect any fees in excess of the amount fixed by the Committee on Fixation of Fee,” the apex court ruled.

The court said the provision on the Committee are “specific and special”, and apply to courses leading to degrees in medicine and engineering. “Therefore, insofar as professional courses leading to degrees in medicine and engineering are concerned, the matter must be screened and assessed by Committee on Fixation of Fee and the submission that the university was entitled to fix fees on its own without the intervention of such Committee has to be rejected,” the judgment held.

With this judgment, the Supreme Court has set aside two separate decisions of the Madras High Court dismissing the petitions filed by 150 students of the university’s MBBS course in 2013-14. They had complained about the huge disparity in the fees charged by the university and other institutions.

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