Government and private universities cannot increase their fees arbitrarily without getting the approval of the fee fixation committee, the Supreme Court has held.

The court’s judgement came after about 150 students filed a petition questioning Tamil Nadu’s Annamalai University’s move to hike the fees for the MBBS course for the 2013-2014 academic session.

A bench of justices Arun Misra and UU Lalit said the university’s decision was in violation of the 2003 SC constitution bench ruling that made it mandatory for every state to have an independent Committee on Fee Fixation, headed by a retired high court judge, to oversee educational institute’s fee structure. The court had made it a must for the institute’s to get the panel’s nod before increasing their fees.

Anamalai University became a state university in 2013 and had fixed the fee structure for medical and dental students without the fee fixation panel’s approval.

The petitioners had first moved the Madras high court against the university’s imposition of ₹5.54 lakhs per annum fee on them. The students contested that the varsity had leveled the “excessive” fee without the fee fixation panel’s approval. The HC, however, rejected their plea.

The students then moved the SC, arguing that the annual fees fixed for MBBS course in the state’s government colleges was ₹12,290 while it was ₹10,290 for BDS Course.

“We hold that the University was not entitled and competent to devise its own fee structure in the present matter without having the fee fixed by the Committee on Fixation of Fee as contemplated under 1992 Act,” the SC held. It directed Annamalai University to place its balance sheet and accounts before fee fixation committee within two weeks.

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