New Delhi/ Calcutta, Feb. 16: The Supreme Court today said the Indian institutes of management cannot be only for the “elite”, asking for documents on their fee structure and the balance sheets of the last 10 years.
The court said “elites of the society alone can just not take away the cream of education, especially specialities and super specialities, which is the settled position of this court in various decisions.”
The remark came as a bench, headed by Chief Justice V.N. Khare, heard petitions by a student of IIM Ahmedabad, an IIM Bangalore alumnus and a Supreme Court lawyer challenging the government’s recent order to slash annual fees at the institutes from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 30,000.
The chief justice wondered why the IIMs had not “come before this court” challenging the order. Ashok Desai, who appeared for the petitioners, said IIM Ahmedabad chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy had criticised the order.
At this, Chief Justice Khare asked: “Who are you...' What is your locus standi...' If the IIM itself was satisfied with the decision of the government and does not oppose the fee reduction, then who are you to challenge it'”
Desai contended that the fee cut was aimed at increasing the institutes’ dependence on the government so that it could control them. This prompted additional solicitor-general Mukul Rohtagi to say the IIMs were already under government control.
He said of the Rs 4 lakh spent on each student, the government was providing Rs 2.5 lakh and the rest was being collected from the students.
“Further, Rs 12 crore are given to them as annual grant which the IIMs straightaway put in the corpus fund and even the salaries are paid by the government as per the pay commission recommendations,” Rohtagi added.
Desai argued that there were errors in the government order that cited the U.R. Rao committee report, which was only for technical institutions.
Rohtagi opposed this, saying that under the Technical Education Act, technical education included “management education also” and that the Rao committee’s report was an overall status report covering all areas.
The bench told Desai to file the documents on or before February 27 and decided to resume hearing on that day.
The judges sought “components” of the fee structure (the government share per student and the fee paid by each student), the subsidy the IIMs get and the balance sheets.
An IIM official contested the government’s claim of an annual subsidy of Rs 2.5 lakh per student. “The grant from the government is declining every year, while the intake of students is increasing. Then what’s the point in reducing fees'” he asked.