Education is not business, says HC
Chandigarh April 4:
Education, after all, is not business; and higher fees will only force a student to adopt a commercial approach.
The crucial observation on the country’s academic system by the Full Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court came, as it disposed of a bunch of 29 writ petitions. In a significant judgment on petitions by Navdeep Kaur Gill and others petitioners, the Bench asserted: “There is no absolute right to establish institutions involving higher cost and limiting the same only to the students, who can pay a higher fee”.
The Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and Justice Mehinder Singh Sullar asserted: “Primarily, education is service to society, where earning is secondary or incidental. High fee will be inconsistent with such an aim and will force a student to adopt a commercial approach.” Upholding the provisions of the Punjab Private Health Sciences Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission, fixation of fee and making of reservation) Act, 2006, the Bench added:
“We are of the view that the provision limiting the fee to the minimum infrastructure requirements cannot be held to be violative of fundamental right under Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution. “The restriction does not, in any manner, interfere with the right of educational institutions to establish and administer the same. Their cost in providing minimum infrastructure is taken care of. They are not debarred from providing better infrastructure if they could afford to…. As observed in PA Inamdar, a student paying high fee is likely to aim at earning more rather than serving which can be a bane to society….
“If the Act intends to encourage social values, where a service-oriented approach can be adopted and access to higher education can be provided to poorer sections, such an aim will be consistent with the directive principles. In one of the petitions, the students had challenged the demand of fee higher than approved for academic sessions 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06 by the fee- fixation committee constituted by the state of Punjab in accordance with the Supreme Court directions.
The petitioners had contended that revision of fee to Rs 3 lakh for MBBS students, Rs 2.30 lakh for BDS and Rs 1.10 lakh for BAMS/BHMS degrees was arbitrary; and higher fee for management quota was not permissible. The Bench added: “There is no doubt that colleges have a fundamental right to run their administration which includes fixation of fee subject only to checking of profiteering. There is no material to show that the FFC has fixed an unreasonably low fee structure without taking into account the cost of the colleges and data furnished by them….
“We are of the view that the writ petitions filed by the colleges are liable to be dismissed and writ petitions filed by the students deserve to be allowed to the extent that the colleges are not entitled to charge fee in excess of the fee approved by the FFC”.