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HC hope for Mumbai medics

Mumbai, Aug. 23: Vijaynath Chindwarkar returned home crestfallen one day in July after a prominent Mumbai medical college asked him to shell out as tuition fees “what my father had earned in the last 10 years”.

A Bombay High Court ruling today may change all that. The court said “all admissions to private medical and engineering colleges in the state be done solely on the basis of merit and through a common entrance test”.

The order came after numerous public interest litigations flooded the high court in the wake of the news that seats to many Maharashtra colleges were being “auctioned off to the highest bidder”. The ruling has brought hope to the student community that Vijaynath’s not-so-isolated experience will not haunt any of them again.

The court also lifted its stay on the admission process to professional courses in Maharashtra and ruled that the colleges will have to announce their fee structures within a week. The government would then get another week to study it and place its proposals before the high court.

More important, there will be a uniform fee structure that will include seats that fall within the management quota, the court said, adding “though the fees will be decided by the respective colleges, it will be subject to the approval of the high court-appointed committee on this issue”.

Coming as a huge respite to students caught between high fees and what seemed like an indefinite postponement of admissions, the admission process for engineering courses will now begin on August 27 and for medical courses on September 3.

The judgment comes a day after the Karnataka government and private professional colleges reached an agreement, stipulating that the government would fill 75 per cent of the seats and the rest would come under the management quota.

At the beginning of the admission year, Maharashtra’s education ministry was caught in a controversy after reports came in from numerous students that they were being charged exorbitant fees — up to Rs 30 lakh — in the name of “management quota”. What was more damning was in most of the colleges, politicians of all hues were in charge.

In a massive misinterpretation of an earlier Supreme Court order, which said private colleges could determine their own fee structure, educational institutes were allegedly found “selling” seats on a “first-come-first-serve basis”.

For instance, in the Terna Medical College — run by irrigation minister Padamsinh Patil — the principal, P.T. Deshmukh, was caught offering a seat for Rs 27 lakh. Deshmukh had reportedly agreed to “ignore” the board examination marks.

This violated the apex court order which had said “appropriate machinery can be devised by the state or university to ensure that no capitation fee is charged and that there is no profiteering, though a reasonable surplus for the furtherance of education is permissible”.

The regulatory bodies formed by the state were found napping even as evidence pointing to 85 per cent of the 112 colleges being controlled by some politician or the other started piling up. Many of them, like Patil, are ministers in the present government.

Days after the furore, Bombay High Court on July 3 stopped admissions to all medical and engineering colleges in the state.

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