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Get set to cough up more to study more

New Delhi, Nov. 6: Capitation fee and other payments may go up, especially in minority private professional colleges, as a result of the Supreme Court judgment in the minority educational institutions case.

Although the judgment makes it clear that capitation fee cannot be levied and no profit-making should be the motive, the highest ever bench in the last 50 years has made it clear that a “reasonable surplus to meet cost of expansion and augmentation of facilities” could be charged from the students.

“This means, colleges no more would call it ‘capitation fee’ but would enhance the payment for ‘augmentation of facilities’ like purchase of modern equipment in this computer era and maintenance of them,” a counsel in the case said.

“World wide, it is the normal practice now that institutions say ‘pay up to learn higher education’. This trend would be set in India also,” the counsel added.

The court had in its October 31 judgment stated that “the principle that there should not be capitation fee for profiteering is correct (in the Unni Krishnan case). Reasonable surplus to meet cost of expansion and augmentation of facilities does not, however, amount to profiteering”.

Pointing to this, the counsel said the “global trend” that “you pay more for higher education, especially professional, technical and related disciplines, would become inevitable in India also”.

The apex court also ruled that those minority educational institutions which do not receive any funds from the government, known as ‘unaided institutions’, could charge a fee as they deem fit and frame their own fee structure.

“The decision on the fee to be charged must necessarily be left to the private educational institution that does not seek or is not dependent upon any funds from the government,” the judgment says.

The judges reasoned that “bureaucratic or governmental interference in the administration of such an institution (unaided private institution) will undermine its independence”.

Further, even meritorious students may have to cough up more fee fixed by the institution. The judges made it clear, “whether (state) aided or unaided”, the institutions should give priority to merit as “merit must play the important role”.

The only area where the government can interfere is in the recruitment of teaching staff, for which the state concerned will fix the criteria and qualifications.

The judges said: “We, however, wish to emphasise one point, and that is that inasmuch as the occupation of education is, in a sense, regarded as charitable, the government can provide regulations that will ensure excellence in education, while forbidding the charging of capitation fee and profiteering by the institution.”

“In an establishment of an educational institution, the object should not be to make profit, inasmuch as education is essentially charitable in nature”, the judges also observed.

“However, there could be a reasonable revenue surplus, which could be generated by the educational institution (concerned) for the purpose of development of education and expansion of the institution”, the judges said.

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